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NADIN KHOURY … Victimized in attack
MEDIA COURTHOUSE – Reporters were kept out in the cold Wednesday after a judge cleared the courtroom for the Right to Detain hearings involving seven juveniles charged with the Jan. 11 Upper Darby bullying incident in which a 13-year-old was allegedly tormented, kidnapped and assaulted.
Judge Mary Alice Brennan, over the objections of the district attorney’s office, ejected reporters and others from the hearing. Officials later confirmed that all seven will remain in the Juvenile Detention Center at Lima pending a Feb. 10 pre-trial hearing.
Reporters stood outside the Fronefield Building in the courthouse complex as relatives and attorneys of the defendants filed out from the closed hearing.
One relative of one of the teenagers commented that “he’s a good kid hanging out with a bad crowd.’’ And another took offense at Upper Darby Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood’s “rather bulldoggish approach.’’
At an earlier press conference Chitwood termed the bullying of the boy as “as probably as heinous a case as I’ve ever seen.’’
Philadelphia Defense Attorney Geoffrey Seay, who represented a 14-year-old, said that he asked for the closure since mental health issues were discussed, which he contended are confidential.
He described the hearing for his client as very brief and confirmed the juvenile was detained pending another hearing.
County Public Defender David DiPasqua said the six he represented were also held pending risk assessment and psychological evaluations. He said during the Feb. 10 hearing it would be determined whether some of the juveniles are low risk and can be released.
The seven are facing charges including kidnapping, assault, unlawful restraint and recklessly endangering another person.
The statute covering such hearings states that the “general public shall not be excluded from any hearing…Pursuant to a petition alleging delinquency where the child was 12 years of age or older at the time of the alleged conduct and where the alleged conduct would have constituted one or more of the following offenses’’ which includes crimes such as kidnapping.
UPPER DARBY — The seventh suspect wanted for his alleged participation in a horrific bullying incident was arrested Tuesday morning at school, police said.
The youth was absent on Monday when Upper Darby police charged into the Opportunity Center on the Upper Darby High School campus around 8:30 a.m. and arrested six suspects, ranging in age from 13 to 17 years old.
All seven are charged with allegedly attacking and pummeling 13-year-old classmate, Nadin Khoury, who was walking home from school 1 p.m. Jan. 11.
Upper Darby School District officials called police to report the 14-year-old boy wanted showed up for school Tuesday morning and became sickened at the prospect of incarceration.
“The kid was crying and throwing up after he was arrested,” police Superintendent Michael Chitwood said. “He was saying he ‘was never involved with anything like this, I was never involved with anything like this.’ When the other six were arrested, they were laughing and thought it was a joke. It’s not a joke. Bullying is a crime and we’re going to treat it like a crime.
“The boy arrested (Tuesday) received the same treatment as the other six,” Chitwood said. “We took him out of school in handcuffs to send a message loud and clear that any type of bullying will not be tolerated.”
The alleged attack against the 13-year-old was recorded on the cell phone of one of the assailants with the intention to air it on YouTube.
“We got the video before it went out on YouTube,” Chitwood said. “They beat this kid, kicked him, drug him through the snow and stuffed him in a tree, upside down, and hung him on a fence. It was seven on one.”
According to Chitwood, several of the youths involved have been harassing the victim inside and outside of school for some time.
“He’s claiming the day after the incident he’s back in school on Jan. 12 and one of the guys in the group comes up and shows him the video,” Chitwood said. “He threatened him and says, ‘If you tell anyone, we’re going to get you.’ They’ve been harassing him. Apparently, this has been going on for a long period of time.”
The school district’s public information coordinator Dana Spino said the district has a specific bullying policy in place, which is described in detail on the district’s website, and declined to comment further on the incident.
Spino said the district had no knowledge or report from the victim about being approached by the others in school after the Jan. 11 attack.
The victim’s sister said her brother received a phone call from the principal of the Opportunity Center to stay home from school for his safety.
The Opportunity Center is an alternative learning center for students with behavioral issues attending either morning or afternoon sessions to complete their education. Currently four eighth-graders and 69 students in ninth through 12th grade are enrolled.
“The student was told not to come to school for reasons not related to his safety,” Spino said.
She did not reveal the reason, citing the district’s privacy code involving students.
Two of the seven students arrested have criminal records and all seven are facing charges of kidnapping, unlawful restraint, reckless endangerment, false imprisonment and assault and are detained at the Juvenile Detention Center in Lima.
The seven students will have a right-to-detain hearing at 10 a.m. today in Media.