Opinion

Did judge give Bainbridge vandals preferential treatment?

In the case of the recent vandalism of Bainbridge Island’s police cars, the crime itself may have been confined to Bainbridge but the troubling response to it resonates throughout Kitsap County, prompting discussions from the specific (when a prank is no longer a prank) to the general (how a permissive, affluent society can ruin our children).

The prompt arrest of one 18-year-old suspect and the subsequent apprehension of his presumed accomplices suggested at first that even spoiled rich kids must pay their debt to society when they commit a crime.

Samuel Bice, the primary suspect and the first to be arrested, spent his high school graduation weekend in Kitsap County Jail, reportedly because his parents — whom one assumes could have afforded to pay his bail — wanted to teach him a lesson.

But as luck would have it, young Sam’s transgressions won’t make a dent in their wallets at all, as he was released on his own recognizance — in other words, with no bail — to the custody of his parents.

He cannot, as Superior Court Judge Sally Olsen decreed, leave his parents’ house for any reason before his August hearing and September trial, although he wasn’t ordered to wear an electronic monitoring device that would inform authorities if he did.

To some, this might seem like an adequate punishment, since a teenager being confined at home for the summer after graduation —  when he wasn’t even allowed to attend the ceremony — sounds like solitary confinement at Alcatraz.

After all, who wants to be cooped up under the same roof with the kind of parents who wouldn’t even bail the kid out soon enough to attend his own graduation?

But before you could say, “Go to your room,” Bice’s attorney prevailed upon the court for an exception.

He asked that Bice be allowed to travel to California for a long-planned family reunion — to begin the very next day.

The attorney argued that the parents would be making the trip anyway, and leaving young Sam at home alone might not be the best idea — and he probably has a point there, considering how the high-spirited youth has apparently been spending his unsupervised evenings up to this point.

Under the circumstances, however, one might have expected Olsen to respond by informing the parents that their vacation plans were of no concern to her, but if keeping track of their young vandal for a few days was too much trouble the county would be happy to offer him the hospitality of a green jumpsuit until they returned.

It didn’t happen.

Instead, Olsen quickly agreed to the request. And just in case you missed it the first time, she then did it again.

Colin Bowman, the second suspect arrested, on Thursday got the exact same treatment — release to his parents without bail and permission to accompany them to Oregon.

You may argue with Olsen’s conclusions, but no one can say she isn’t consistent.

We can only hope the bench continues its broad-minded, consistent behavior, and that any Port Orchard teen who commits a similar infraction will get the same opportunity to rehabilitate himself in his parents’ more modest home and won’t have to miss the family trip to Six Flags.

We are, of course, stereotyping, and it’s cynical to think that any judge would apply similar stereotypes in determining a case.

We’re also not necessarily suggesting these alleged offenders are guilty or that they deserve harsher sentences. We’ll defer the final decision to finer legal minds than ours.

However, one certainly hopes the next South Kitsap kid to cross the line between prank and perniciousness gets the same level of compassion as the offspring of well-heeled Bainbridge Island families do.

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