Two teenage boys charged in a fatal assault on a middle school student in 2019 won’t spend time in jail, a California judge ruled Friday.
Riverside County Superior Judge Roger A. Luebs instead ordered the boys to serve 150 hours of community service and “participate in various programs specifically tailored toward their rehabilitative needs” in the death of Diego Stolz at Moreno Valley Middle School on September 16, 2019, according to Fox 11.
In a widely shared video of the incident, one boy is seen standing close to Stolz before steps back and punches Stolz in the mouth. The second boy then comes from behind and “sucker punches” the victim, who falls and slams his head onto a concrete pillar. The first boy punches Stolz again and runs away.
Stolz suffered severe head trauma and was declared clinically dead on September 24 and taken off life support. The two boys were initially charged with voluntary manslaughter, as CrimeOnline previously reported, but “made admissions” to involuntary manslaughter in Riverside Juvenile Court last November, Fox 11 said.
Luebs said in court that he felt the Riverside County Probation Department, which wanted jail time for the two teens, was coming from a place of public outrage instead of rehabilitation. But he also cautioned the boys and their parents to strictly follow his orders, which included therapy of anger management issues, impulsivity, and a lack of empathy, the Press Enterprise reported.
“Please test me,” he said. “I will accept the test.”
Luebs set a hearing for June 25 to determine compliance, saying, “We can do that or we can make a reservation for them in state prison now.”
A hearing was scheduled for June 25 to determine whether the families are complying with the probation terms.
“We can do that or we can make a reservation for them in state prison now,” Luebs said.
The two boys’ attorneys were pleased with the judge’s ruling.
“The idea that they didn’t go to youth prison shouldn’t be seen as giving them a slap on the wrist, actually they’re going to have a lot of work to do to complete their probation, which probably won’t end until their 18th birthday,” David Wohl, who represented one of the minors, told Fox 11. “The probation wanted them to be sent to DJJ, which is the youth prison, which was not appropriate for 13-year-olds.”
“It was an incident that occurred when they were 13 years old,” said Rickson Dakanay, who represented the other defendant in the case. “They couldn’t really process what was going on at the time. During some self-reflection, some therapy, they’ve actually come to grips with what occurred. They’ve shown some empathy, remorse.”
Stolz’s family did not comment after the sentencing. His legal guardians have filed a civil complaint against the Moreno Valley Unified School District, saying Stolz was repeatedly bullied for years by several boys, and that his aunt’s complaints produced no solution. One of the boys involved in the fatal attack punched Stolz a few days before that attack and threatened further harm, according to David Ring, the attorney representing his guardians. Family members talked with school officials, but nothing was ever done.
The principal and vice principal at Moreno Valley Middle School were replaced six weeks after Stolz’s death.
Following Diego’s death, the school district announced sweeping changes intended to put a stop to bullying incidents, establishing an online complaint process for students and parents, a set of guidelines that identify prohibited behaviors and a phone number that students and parents may call anytime they want to flag acts of aggression, verbal or physical.
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[Featured image: Diego Stolz/KMEX]