Mendon teen charged after suicide attempt
Gary Craig • Staff writer • August 6, 2009
A Mendon teenager's attempt to commit suicide has led to his prosecution on a weapons charge.
On April 29 the teen carried his father's .40-caliber firearm into a shed on his family property with the intent of killing himself, court papers allege.
Alerted by a suicide note, his parents called 911. Responding deputies found the 17-year-old on his back in the shed with the gun "pointed at his chin," according to a Sheriff's Office report. The teenager relinquished the gun, the report states.
With the apparent suicide attempt averted, deputies then charged the teenager with misdemeanor criminal possession of a weapon because, they say, he was not the legal owner of the gun. And now, the District Attorney's Office is prosecuting the teen for the illegal weapon charge, after what the teen's lawyer says have been multiple unsuccessful attempts to reach a resolution other than a criminal charge.
"In as inappropriate, unfortunate and misplaced a use of prosecutorial discretion as the Monroe County District Attorney's Office ever has demonstrated, my client now effectively is being prosecuted for attempting suicide," attorney Jeffrey Wicks wrote in a motion filed this week.
District Attorney Michael Green said prosecution in such a case can be used to ensure the individual gets treatment. For instance, a sentence of probation could include continued court-ordered treatment, Green said.
"This kind of conduct can pose a threat to himself and other people," Green said. "I'm certainly sympathetic to him and his family."
Wicks this week filed a motion asking that the charges against the teenager be dismissed "in the interest of justice," a part of the penal law that gives judges the discretion to dismiss charges if, for instance, the alleged crime was of questionable seriousness. Also key to requests to dismiss a charge in the interest of justice is the character of the accused and the likelihood the community would be at risk if the accused went free.
The teenager "has no previous arrests or history of violence," Wicks states in court papers. The Democrat and Chronicle is not identifying the accused because, if found guilty, he would be adjudicated as a youthful offender under the law.
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Wicks said the teenager and his family would not answer questions from the media because of the pending criminal charge.
In his suicide note, the teenager apologized to his parents "for everything," saying: "I've disappointed you guys countless times."
"You don't deserve that," he wrote in the note, which is included in court papers.
About a month before the suicide attempt, the teenager was diagnosed with "major depressive disorder" and was taking prescription anti-depressants, court papers say. After the attempt, he spent 19 days at an adolescent psychiatric unit. He is now on a different regimen of medication and "not only is doing well but is feeling strong, confident and future-oriented," Wicks writes in court papers.
A conviction and the possibility of incarceration "would be catastrophic" for his continued improvement, Wicks contends.
Green said incarceration is "not the only option available here" and again emphasized that prosecution might ensure continued valuable treatment.