PALMDALE, Calif. (FinalCall.com) – A juvenile court judge on June 23 “found it to be true” that two Black teenagers committed misdemeanor battery on a public officer and one made criminal threats in a case that gained widespread attention after a security guard at William Pete Knight High School broke one girl’s wrist last September.
Juvenile court Judge Christopher Estes sentenced Pleajhai Mervin, Kenngela Lockett and her brother Joshua to at-home probation and community service, but spared them any jail time. Ms. Mervin, then 15, and Ms. Lockett were charged with the misdemeanors while Joshua Lockett was charged with felony counts of threatening a public officer and making criminal threats. He also faced misdemeanor charges for disturbing the peace.
The youths must perform 80 hours of community service and undergo anger management classes, but according to Atty. Carl Douglas, their lawyer, they could be entangled in the legal system until they are 23-years-old. He doubts that will happen because the teens “are good children,” he told The Final Call.
The children maintained their innocence throughout preliminary investigations and the trial, and rejected a plea bargain. “We took a chance on justice. If these children had had a jury, there was no way they would have been found guilty,” said Latricia Majors, Ms. Mervin’s mother. Although her daughter is doing better, the girl is still upset that she has to do community service and was put on probation for something she did not do, said the mother.
“I’m still glad that we did go through the trial, because I taught her to stand up for something she believes in. We did the right thing by doing that,” Ms. Majors added.
“To say that I am disappointed by the verdict would be an understatement. My office and I put our blood, sweat and tears into efforts to vindicate the rights of these three young people and I so regret that the judge did not agree that we had proven that the prosecutor had failed to prove the allegations beyond a reasonable doubt,” said Atty. Douglas.
“This is clearly a case that was situational. The Locketts did not even know Miss Mervin before she was accosted by the security guard; because Mr. Lockett had a prior incident with that same guard, he wanted to take a picture of the guard’s conduct for his own individual case,” Atty. Douglas told The Final Call.
The incident began when Chris Niemeyer, a school security guard, confronted Miss Mervin on Sept. 18 saying she had not picked up enough birthday cake that spilled on the ground in the school’s lunch area.
News media released footage showing Mr. Niemeyer restraining the girl, and then leaping upon another student, Joshua Lockett, who was videotaping the incident until he was attacked by security guards trying to take the camera. When Ms. Lockett begged them to let him go, she said, another guard attacked her, fracturing her arm.
Mr. Niemeyer, who was suspended with pay shortly after the incident, was cleared of any wrongdoing by a sheriff’s investigation and has returned to work.
“Our children were going up against security guards, teachers and assistant principals, and it doesn’t mean that just because they (school staffers) are those things, they will be honest. It just means that all of these people and entities stick together. It doesn’t make them right,” Ms. Majors said.
Web Video: Pleajhai Mervin Case
LA Sheriffs clear guard accused of breaking teen’s wrist (FCN, 11-01-2007)