POLSON – Ten-year-old Isaiah Shane Nasewytewa headed home to St. Ignatius with his grandmother Thursday afternoon, anxious to get his feet back on a skateboard.
The boy had one word to describe how he felt about going home – “good” – and one word to describe the last three weeks of his life, when he was held at a juvenile detention center in Galen and, later, a residential treatment center in Butte, initially on $500,000 bail.
“Horrible,” said the youngster, who was thrust into the spotlight when his family turned to social and traditional media to protest the unusually high bail set by District Court Judge Kim Christopher after Nasewytewa got in trouble at school.
That trouble – a disorderly conduct charge – led the Lake County Attorney’s Office to re-file felony burglary, criminal mischief and criminal trespass charges against Nasewytewa. Prosecutors said Nasewytewa had violated the terms of a deferred prosecution agreement involving the minor and a 2012 break-in at a Polson rafting company.
Christopher made it clear she had set the unusually high bail to ensure a neuropsychological evaluation required in the deferred prosecution agreement – scheduled, but missed by the boy, three times – finally took place.
Public defender Steve Eschenbacher, who is representing Nasewytewa, had argued the criminal justice system was being misused to provide mental health services.
On Thursday, the judge made it just as clear that she didn’t want to deal with any more missed mental health appointments if Nasewytewa was released to his grandmother, Dorinda Buck of St. Ignatius.
“He’s the one who’s going to lose if the people in charge of him aren’t paying attention,” Christopher said. “I don’t want Isaiah to get in trouble because somebody failed him.”
Eschenbacher and Deputy Lake County Attorney Mark Russell requested a two-week continuance at Thursday’s status hearing.
“I think we’ll be able to resolve” the criminal charges outside the courtroom, Eschenbacher told the judge. “There are just a few details we need to work out.”
That left Christopher to decide whether to allow Nasewytewa to return to his grandmother’s care.
The judge didn’t seem happy with a required 9 p.m. curfew for the boy set out in the conditions for his release – “He ought to be in bed by that time,” Christopher said – but she was more concerned about him making follow-up appointments.
Russell said there were three counseling sessions scheduled for Nasewytewa during the two-week continuance being requested.
But Polson attorney Matt O’Neill, who is representing the grandmother, said only one of them – to determine whether Nasewytewa needs to be placed on any medications – was required.
That didn’t tickle the judge either. She did not want to end up arbitrating conflicts, she said, between doctors and lawyers about what mental health services the boy needed.
“I’m not arguing, I’m just saying,” Christopher said. “I don’t want to be back in the same place we were before.”
Nasewytewa originally got in trouble as a 9-year-old, when he and another minor allegedly broke into the rafting company.
The boy’s parents separated at some point, with his mother moving away to Arizona. Nasewytewa was later removed from his father’s care by Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Child Protective Services, for reasons that have not been divulged in court, and placed with his grandmother.
Earlier testimony revealed the boy had repeatedly gotten in trouble at his elementary school in St. Ignatius for fighting with other students. The disorderly conduct citation came after he allegedly threw a metal desk at school, banged his head on a window and yelled at an administrator.
The boy was in the care of family members other than his grandmother when he missed his first two scheduled neuropsychological evaluations, according to testimony, and it was unclear who was taking care of him when he missed the third appointment.
However, testimony indicated he had also missed nine of 15 separate counseling sessions while in Buck’s care. O’Neill disputed that Thursday, calling the figures “not accurate” and adding, “He hasn’t missed one.”
No testimony had disputed the figures, Christopher noted, but said, “That’s water under the bridge. We need to go forward based on what’s good for Isaiah, and to protect the public.”
Christopher had taken the $500,000 bail off the table after a week, releasing him on his own recognizance but requiring him to enroll at a residential treatment center pending the completion of the neuropsychological evaluation.
Dr. Robert Velin of Bozeman conducted the evaluation. On Thursday, Eschenbacher termed Velin’s report on the boy “really positive.”
Christopher released Nasewytewa to Buck with the 9 p.m. curfew, the requirement that he keep a May 29 appointment in Polson, and that he remain “in almost constant contact with your grandma.”
She continued the matter to June 6, although the parties appear hopeful they’ll come to an agreement on the criminal charges against the child by then.
“Finally,” Buck said afterward. “It’s been an ordeal for us. Last night I was looking back at all the things that have happened since May 2, and it dawned on me all the stuff he’s been through, and all the stuff I’ve been through. I just cried and cried. I’m so glad he’s coming home.”
Her grandson had already told her he couldn’t wait to get back to a favorite pastime.
“He said his skateboarding skills were getting rusty,” Buck said.