WOONSOCKET — A Family Court judge yesterday “certified” a 17-year-old boy accused in a stabbing last April that left an elderly man paralyzed — a status that falls a step short of waiving him into adult courts.
But Amy Kempe, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, said the ruling also places the boy in jeopardy of serving an adult-length prison sentence if the courts determine he was responsible for the stabbing.
“It’s kind of a bifurcated approach,” said Kempe. “He’ll be tried in Family Court but he’ll be subject to adult sentencing.”
Kempe said she still could not identify the boy because of his status as a juvenile. He is accused of stabbing 74-year-old Donald Paterson in the back outside the Four Seasons Apartments on Diamond Hill Road last April 24. The retired machinist was paralyzed and forced to move to a handicapped-accessible apartment in Kennedy Manor after a long period of hospitalization and therapy.
Family Court Judge Kathleen Voccola issued a ruling on the boy’s status after a hearing about two weeks ago during which Paterson saw the boy for the first time.
Under the certification statute, Kempe said, the boy could be sentenced for the crime in Family Court as an adult, but the court could not retain jurisdiction over him after his 19th birthday. Sometime before then, she said, the Family Court would have to hold a hearing to determine whether the offender should be transferred to the custody of the state prison system. The alternative would be to suspend the balance of his sentence and hold him on probation.
“Prior to the individual’s 19th birthday, the court will hold a hearing to determine whether the individual poses a serious risk to the safety of the public,” Kempe said in a statement. “Upon that finding the court may order that the jurisdiction of the sentence be transferred to the Department of Corrections and that the balance of the sentence be served in facilities under the control of the department or find that the juvenile was rehabilitated and suspend the balance of the sentence with adult probation and other possible restrictions.”
Kempe declined to say what charges the boy faces or provide other details of the case, citing his status as a juvenile. But the Woonsocket police previously said he was charged with assault with a dangerous weapon and assault on a person over 60 years old, felonies that carry up to 20 years each in adult courts.