Judge seeks way to avoid sending teen to prison

District Judge Dave Gamble found 16-year-old Jimmy Holman in violation of the terms of his probation for his part in the beating death last summer of a 54-year-old man.

But Gamble gave Holman's attorney two weeks to draw up an alternative punishment, saying he didn't want to compound an error he made in allowing the teenager to be tried as adult by sending him to prison.

At the end of a two-hour hearing Wednesday, Gamble said the case is "one of the most disappointing, frustrating and difficult cases" he's tried in 23 years as a judge.

"This case constitutes a serious mistake by me. Judges are confronted by cases with one single punishment. If I don't intercede at charging, I am locked in at sentencing," Gamble said. "My error was in not interceding long before this by not having him treated as a juvenile. I confess that mistake and I am confronted by the error that I can only lay at the feet of myself."

Gamble said adult probation did not fit Holman and asked far too much of state parole and probation.

"How can they be expected to supervise a defendant who, at the time, was too young to drive to the parole and probation office?" Gamble asked.

If his probation is revoked, Holman faces up to four years in Nevada State Prison.

Gamble set disposition for April 27 and told Holman's attorney, Kris Brown, "that's how much time you have to come up with a viable alternative. (Adult) parole and probation is not working."

"The next worse thing would be for me to send a 16-year-old boy to adult prison and I'm not prepared to do that today," Gamble said.

He was 15 when he and three others were convicted in the June 22, 2009, death of Terrence Joe Howell.

Holman's codefendants - including another 15-year-old and Holman's stepfather - were sent to prison, but he was judged the least culpable and sentenced to probation.

Had Holman been adjudicated as a juvenile more options would have been open to him regarding placement and supervision.

He was arrested Feb. 28 after the car in which he was a passenger was stopped for failing to maintain a travel lane.

The three people in the car - including Holman - tested negative for alcohol. Deputies searched the vehicle after identifying Holman and driver Reynaldo Hernandez as being on probation.

Searching the back seat where Holman was sitting, deputies found a large black knife with "N14" on both sides, a small plastic bag containing 1-1/2 tablets of Naproxen, a square piece of foil and burned or smashed Naproxen tablet, and a clear cylinder-shaped tube with ground-up pill residue similar to Naproxen.

The three subjects denied ownership of any of the items.

The deputy said Holman was wearing white tennis shoes with gang writing and a red faded Tampa Bay Buccaneers jersey. He also had his name written in gang-style writing on his left hand.

Prosecutor Tom Gregory said at the beginning of Wednesday's hearing that no controlled substances were found in the vehicle, and that prosecutors were dropping those allegations.

Hernandez testified Wednesday that he was on probation for bad check charges, but that Holman's mother, Nina Gomez, had given Hernandez legal custody of Holman's 14-year-old sister. He said Holman had come to his house to visit his sister and they were on their way home from 7-Eleven with popcorn, movies and sodas.

Holman testified that he found the jersey in his sister's backpack and put it on because he was cold. His mother testified the knife belonged to her and she gave it to her daughter for safekeeping.

Nina Gomez told the judge she had no idea how "N14" got on the weapon.

Holman claimed the writing on the shoes was a design he made long before his arrest "on the involuntary manslaughter stuff."

Holman said he wore the shoes every time he met with his probation officer or participated in juvenile probation office programs and no one ever said a word.

Holman also testified he enrolled himself at Sierra Crest Academy with the assistance of the juvenile probation office and was to start school the day after he was arrested.

Gomez testified that her three daughters were living with friends or relatives while she and Holman moved from motel to motel.

"We didn't have a home between motels. I thought Ray Hernandez would be the best place for her. He's a good guy."

Gomez said her daughter and Hernandez's daughter were friends and she didn't know Hernandez was on probation for a bad check charge.

Gamble questioned sheriff's Investigator Nadine Chrzanowski about drawings attributed to Holman that the prosecution claimed bore signs of gang affiliation.

"What is the significance if somebody is validated as a gang member?" Gamble asked. "Why do we do this? My concern consistently in this courtroom is we have established a status of people we have criminalized. We are taking a style of writing and creating an indication of criminal activity."

"Being identified as a gang member in and of itself is not a crime," Chrzanowski said. "Us doing our jobs as law enforcement officers is making sure those people are not committing criminal activities. We have a heightened sense of watchfulness."

Despite Holman's explanations for the allegations - he put on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers jersey because he was cold, he didn't know Hernandez was on probation, the knife belonged to his mother - Gamble found him in violation.

"He failed to comply - in fact, he possessed gang-related paraphernalia and indicators. I did not say he was a gang member," the judge said.

He acknowledged what he called Chrzanowski's "serious wisdom" about monitoring and identifying gang members.

"There is a use, as she said. Gang affiliation is not a crime, as law enforcement keeps a closer watch, they can catch the criminals and steer some to a better life," Gamble said.


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