The Orangetown Youth Court honored 27 new graduates Tuesday at the Orangetown Town Hall before a crowd of parents and local officials.
The ceremony celebrated their completion of the law-related training program. Now the 27 graduates, all students between 13 and 19 years old, will begin a two-year commitment to serve on the Orangetown Youth Court.
For a full description of the Orangetown Youth Court, go here. The court is an alternative to the criminal justice system. The court holds hearings for young people who have admitted their guilt, allowing them to be judged and sentenced by a peer judge. Members of the youth court rotate among the roles of judge, prosecutor, defender and clerk/bailiff.
Those whose cases go to youth court may give up the right to an attorney or to a trial to determine guilt, but there is no permanent record. Sentences typically include community service, as much as 48 hours, and assignments such as writing letters of apology.
The youth court graduates are given an overview of the legal system, including what types of evidence are admissible and factors to be considered in sentencing. They also take part in mock hearings as part of their training.
Detective Peter Maher oversees the Youth Court as its executive director. Cases are referred to him by judges, the police department and the probation department. Most often, cases accepted by the youth court include shoplifting, criminal mischief, larceny, and vandalism
Maher stressed to the crowd the importance of confidentiality, reminding the parents that their children will not be allowed to talk about the cases they hear.
"It is one thing in their lives that they can't talk to you about," Maher said. "It is a very private setting. It is out of respect to the juvenile justice system. If we didn't have the youth courts in this county, the family court could never operate."
Orangetown Police Chief Kevin Nulty pointed out the importance of parental support in the program during his opening remarks. He added that the importance of the town board's support of the Orangetown Police Department's youth programs has made things like the youth court possible.
Maher made sure Nulty's role in the program was also recognized. He also pointed out Pearl River High School Principal William Furdon, who was in attendance, saying that he never misses a graduation and is a strong supporter of the program.
"I know (Nulty) supports this program 100 percent and fights for it all the time," Maher said. "The town board as a whole, without your support, obviously we couldn't continue to operate and I appreciate that."
He also took a moment out to honor four local officials who will be leaving office as at the end of the month -- Town Justice Paul B. Phinney III, Supervisor Paul Whalen, Councilman Michael Maturo and Councilwoman Nancy Low-Hogan.
"You all learn to trust each other," said Maturo, who took part in a town police academy when he was in school. "You have to protect information that people in the public can't know. You can't even talk to your parents about some things going on. It's a heavy burden. The things you are learning here will last for a long time."
For more comments from Nulty, Phinney, Whalen and graduates Gabriella Capello and Catherine Walker, see the videos attached to this article. Walker's mother, Marianne J. Walker, Esq., is the chairperson of the youth court steering committee and works with Joseph McCormack, Esq., in the training.
Youth Court Graduates
- Thomas Berrigan
- Aileen Burke
- Gabriella Capello
- Zachary Daly
- Brittany DiPaolo
- Jillian Egan
- Colleen Fenlon
- Emily Freud
- James Horohoe
- Brian Maher
- Dylan Markowitz
- Annie McBride
- Taylor Mormile
- Alexandra Nelson
- Kaitlin O'Riordan
- Damian O'Sullivan
- Niamh O'Sullivan
- Kevin Parakkattu
- Patrick Scanlon
- Taylor Simpson
- Kaitlyn Solesky
- Jessica Sorace
- James Stephen
- Tricia Thornton
- Megan Townsend
- Christopher Tucci
- Catherine Walker