- - Thursday, October 17, 2013

The article “Reforms in prosecution of D.C.’s young offenders trail states” (Web, Oct. 10) was grossly inaccurate and misleading in many respects with regard to the District of Columbia.

The article claims that “roughly 75 percent of youths charged with crimes are prosecuted in federal court,” but that is completely false. In the District, it is extremely rare that any juveniles are prosecuted in federal court. In fact, even in Superior Court there are relatively few cases where juveniles are charged as adults and the grounds for such prosecutions are very narrowly limited.

Among an annual average of 3,500 juvenile cases handled by our office, last year there were only approximately 37 opened by our office where youth between the ages of 16 and 18 were even eligible to be prosecuted as adults. The vast majority of those offenders were handled as juveniles in Family Court by our office. Meanwhile, the U.S. Attorney's Office, which by law prosecutes when statutorily eligible juveniles are tried as adults, prosecutes about 50 such cases each year, or less than 2 percent of the cases in which a juvenile is charged with a crime in the District. Those cases are brought in Superior Court.

Our office, along with the U.S. Attorney's Office, considers each case carefully on its individual facts and circumstances. Only the most serious cases warrant treating persons under the age of 18 as adults. The U.S. Attorney's Office is also very sparing in its use of this tool, utilizing it only in the most egregious cases, such as in the case of the seven young men who pleaded guilty to the fatal stabbing and robbery of a teen at the Woodley Park Metro Station last year.

The District’s policies and procedures are designed to try very few persons under the age of 18 as adults. These cases involve only the most serious violent crimes. The procedures are sound and represent a model for the nation that other states are now emulating.

IRVIN B. NATHAN

Attorney general for the District of Columbia

Washington