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No charges against teen in bus brawl

"The 14-year-old participant in a school bus fight that left another junior high school student with brain injuries will apparently not be charged with any wrongdoing.Kitsap County Prosecuting Attorney Russ Hauge said the teen, who was to be arraigned in Kitsap County Superior Court yesterday, could be charged in the future, but for now, There's a disjunction between what we might think and what we can prove.According to Hauge, the decision came down to two factors. First, prosecutors could not disprove the defendant's claim that he was only defending himself, since several witnesses indicated the victim actually threw the first punch during the May 18 fight.More importantly, prosecutors were also unable to prove conclusively that the injuries suffered by the victim were inflicted during the brawl. The doctors believe very strongly that the victim's brain injuries were the result of a prolonged choking action, Hauge said. But as best we can determine, the entire fight lasted only about 30 seconds. If the suspect choked the victim at all - and we're not certain he did - we'd have had a hard time convincing a jury it lasted long enough to cause the kind of injuries we saw in this case.Detectives from the Sheriff Department spent more than two weeks investigating the incident, in which 15-year-old Jeremy Crumley and a fellow Cedar Heights Junior High School student got into a shoving match over a seat on the school bus. The 14-year-old intervened.In the ensuing melee, Crumley was punched several times in the head. He then exited the bus before it arrived at the school. An hour and a half later, Crumley's father found the injured boy in the backyard of the family's Port Orchard home, according to authorities.Crumley was taken to Mary Bridge Children's Hospital in Tacoma, where he remained for a week with apparent injuries to his brain. He was discharged May 26 in good condition, but doctors say it may be several weeks before they can determine whether he suffered permanent damage.The student with whom Crumley fought was arrested and spent the night in a juvenile detention facility before being released. Prosecutors considered charging the teen with either second or third-degree assault, which are felonies, or fourth-degree assault, a misdemeanor.In the end, they decided to drop the charges altogether.We just decided we couldn't make a strong enough case, Hauge said. From the time the victim got off the bus to when he was discovered in his backyard was about an hour and a half. That's 90 minutes unaccounted for. If I was defending the suspect in this case, I know I'd argue that his injuries could have been sustained during that time. And we couldn't do anything to disprove it.Hauge said the case will remain open and, if further information is developed, the suspect could still be prosecuted.We've asked the Pierce County medical examiner for a second opinion on how Crumley's injuries might have occurred, he said. But we have no reason to think a second investigation will turn out any different than the first."

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