$500K bail removed as St. Ignatius boy's evaluation begins

2013-05-11T08:37:00Z 2013-06-06T15:31:10Z $500K bail removed as St. Ignatius boy's evaluation beginsBy VINCE DEVLIN Missoulian The Billings Gazette
May 11, 2013 8:37 am  • 

ST. IGNATIUS — An unusually high $500,000 bail holding a 10-year-old boy in custody for the past week was removed Thursday after a neuropsychological evaluation on the child began, but his family vowed Friday to continue their fight to bring Isaiah Shane Nasewytewa home.

District Court Judge Kim Christopher released Nasewytewa from a juvenile detention center on his own recognizance, but with the stipulation he enter a residential treatment center in Butte.

His grandmother and legal guardian, Dorinda Buck, of St. Ignatius, said the move was like taking her grandson "from the pot into the fire. I object to any kind of mental facility."

The boy, whose recent conduct at school got him re-charged with felony burglary, criminal mischief and criminal trespass from a 2012 incident, had been held at the Reintegrating Youthful Offenders Correctional Facility in Galen.

He's now at Acadia Montana in Butte, which describes itself as a residential treatment center for young people ages 8 to 18, in need of assistance with co-occurring behavioral, emotional and psychiatric disorders.

"It's basically a mental hospital," Buck said Friday, after a rally at her home in St. Ignatius. "I said, 'Why, why?' "

***

At a Wednesday hearing in Polson, it was revealed that the boy had already missed three previously scheduled neuropsychological evaluations while in the care of various family members.

His parents have separated, and Buck testified that Nasewytewa's mother moved to Arizona last fall. Nasewytewa was later removed from his father's care by Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Child Protective Services, for reasons that weren't disclosed in court, and placed in his grandmother's care.

The boy, testimony showed, had also missed nine of 15 scheduled weekly sessions with mental-health professionals in St. Ignatius since being placed with his grandmother in January.

Christopher indicated she had set bail at $500,000 -- 10 times more than the county attorney's office requested, and 50 times higher than what Nasewytewa's public defender sought - to ensure the neuropsychological evaluation finally took place.

The boy's attorney, Steve Eschenbacher, argued the criminal justice system was being misused to deliver mental-health services. He called Buck to the stand to testify she was willing to be appointed an officer of the court, charged with getting her grandson to the evaluation in Bozeman on Thursday and again on May 17 - and under threat of jail time for herself if the appointments weren't kept -- if the judge reduced bail so the child could return home.

On cross-examination, the previously missed evaluations and mental-health appointments for the child were brought to light.

Deputy Lake County Attorney Cory Allen also questioned Buck about multiple reports from the boy's elementary school, where he was accused of unprovoked attacks on other students. Allen asked about three of the alleged incidents, then noted he was only on page two of 27 pages worth of reports from the school involving Nasewytewa's behavior.

While unable to recall details of specific calls she received from school administrators, Buck said her grandson had posed no discipline problems in her home, and testified that he played after school with some of the same children he was accused of attacking in school.

***

Buck said she was on the phone with her attorney, Matt O'Neill, of Polson, Thursday when O'Neill was notified another court proceeding in Nasewytewa's case had just been scheduled.

"I couldn't even get there, it happened so fast," Buck said.

She and O'Neill had been working on a proposal to have Nasewytewa placed in foster care in the Mission Valley, pending the completion of his neuropsychological evaluation, Buck said.

The grandmother said she still prefers that to Nasewytewa being treated in Butte. The family turned to social and traditional media to protest the $500,000 bail set for a 10-year-old, an amount they said is usually reserved for adults accused of the most violent of crimes.

An aunt who previously had taken in Nasewytewa after his parents' separation drove through the night from her home in Olympia, Wash., to speak at Friday morning's rally.

Valerie Bourdon's message, Buck said, was "that we're not going to give up."

At the judge's request, family members were allowed to say goodbye to Nasewytewa after Wednesday's hearing. Each was given about 30 seconds with the boy, who was in another room, Buck said, one at a time.

"He was in shackles and handcuffs," Buck said through tears. "He's not a hardened criminal of any kind. He's just a 10-year-old kid. It was very hard for a grandmother to see."

The 2012 burglary of a Polson rafting company, which Nasewytewa was charged with at the age of 9, involved another minor. According to Wednesday's hearing, the other minor allegedly broke a window and had the smaller Nasewytewa climb inside.

Nasewytewa was covered in cuts from the broken glass when questioned by law enforcement, it was stated.

The case was settled through a deferred prosecution agreement wherein the charges eventually would have been dropped if the boy met certain conditions.

When he was cited for disorderly conduct after allegedly throwing a metal desk, yelling at an administrator and banging his head on a window at school, those terms had been violated, and the charges from the burglary were re-filed.

Dr. Robert Velin, of Bozeman, is conducting the neuropsychological evaluation. His report, after the evaluation is completed on May 17, likely will be significant in determining what happens next with the youth.

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