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Prosecutor explains teen's release after arson charges - abc27 WHTM

Prosecutor explains teen's release after arson charges

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Alexis Poteat, left, and Aliah Alli (submitted) Alexis Poteat, left, and Aliah Alli (submitted)
HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) -

A 13-year-old girl has surrendered to authorities to face charges in two arsons in Harrisburg last week.

Harrisburg Police Lt. Robert Fegan said the teen was accompanied by family when she turned herself in Monday afternoon. She was charged with arson, risking a catastrophe, conspiracy and violating curfew.

She is the third young woman charged for two fires in the Olde Uptown neighborhood last week. Police previously charged 19-year-old Alexis Poteat with arson, risking a catastrophe and conspiracy. Aliah Alli, 19, was charged with conspiracy.

Police said that after the 13-year-old was processed by police, she was released back to her mother's care. That information set off a firestorm on abc27's Facebook page.

Michele Clelan posted, "Not understanding why she's been left go???"

Christina Richardson added, "Why is she allowed with her mother? Her age shouldn't be a factor. What she did was not a mistake."

Johnny Baer, senior deputy prosecutor for the Dauphin County district attorney's office, explained that a juvenile's release or detention is decided on a case-by-case basis depending on the charges and expert input.

"In this instance, it's my understanding that the city police made the decision not to have her detained and have her released," Baer said.

A call was made to Harrisburg police for clarification on the reasoning behind the release, but information was not readily available.

Baer said that because of the juvenile's age, her name would not be released in any court proceeding. He said that if the teen is found guilty, there are ways the county's probation department could handle her.

"[There is] a program dedicated to treating and rehabilitating juvenile arsonists," said Baer, who explained that it is possible for a judge to order the teen into such a program.

He said arson at a young age is common, and added that if she is found guilty of a felony, it would be a lasting burn mark on her record - age notwithstanding.

"If anyone is adjudicated of a felony offense as a juvenile, that's going to stick with you for the rest of your life," he said.

 

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