Juvenile Released as Investigation Continues - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

04/05/06

Juvenile Released as Investigation Continues

A 13-year-old boy arrested and charged for firing a gun on a school bus last month is home with his family tonight. Sammie Riley was supposed to go to a trial next Friday, but today authorities released him from the Savannah Regional Youth Detention Center.

Prosecutors asked a judge to release him because they need more time to finish their investigation. They say they received new information yesterday on this case, and until they investigate that new information, they could not go forward with the charges against Riley.

Riley's family couldn't wait to get him out of the youth detention center. He's been locked up since March 16, when campus police arrested him for bringing a gun to school and firing it out the window of a school bus.

He went home with his dad, mom and other relatives. "I feel good, I feel good," his mother told us. They say it's a small victory.

Riley's attorney asked the family not to talk to us on camera today, but his mother told us that Riley was on that school bus, he was sitting in the seat where the gun was found, and she says just because other students may have seen him with the gun, that doesn't mean he fired it.

Prosecutors say Riley could still face charges and they're not ruling him out as the one who fired the gun. So why did they ask the judge to let him go?

"With an investigation of this type, it's necessary to have more time to allow police to complete their investigation," said Jeff Hendrix, an assistant DA.

Unlike adult court, juvenile court requires a case to go to trial within two or three weeks from the time of the arrest. "We have very strict rules in the juvenile court," said Hendrix. "There is a public policy against detaining kids. We have to follow those rules, those laws."

Riley's mother told us she wishes police would have finished this investigation before they arrested her son, especially since this has been a very public case.

Prosecutors say it's better to halt the case now, because once it goes to trial that's it, no second chances. They want to have all the information they need before they go ahead with this case.

Riley is on probation for other, unrelated charges.

Reported by: Michelle Paynter, mpaynter@wtoc.com

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