A pair of teenage gang members has been arrested in connection with the October slaying of a Riverside-area man. The slain man, Rene Balbuena, was responding to an ad placed in Craigslist for a cell phone. According to police, the 17-year-old and 18-year-old pair had used the Craigslist ploy on previous occasions, leading to several instances of armed robbery.
The duo has been charged with “one count each of murder, attempted murder, robbery with special circumstances and gang allegations.”
Both have been charged as adults, including the 17-year-old.
This incident raises several issues, including the safety of responding to Craigslist ads and the question of why the teens are being charged as adults. Both young men were labeled by news media as “teens.” However, the age of a teen does not preclude him or her being treated as an adult by the criminal justice system. The seriousness of the crimes (armed robbery is a felony charge), the premeditated nature of the crimes (creating a trap for victims via Craigslist ads), and the fact that the younger of the pair worked in concert with an older, presumably more experienced criminal actor all may have contributed to the prosecution’s decision to treat the pair as adults.
The article discusses the suspects’ affiliation with the Inglewood Blood gang. Because of this possible affiliation, the crimes may be treated with more severity. The police are considering whether the Craigslist ads were undertaken at the direction of a gang—a violation of California Penal Code 186.22, which can be prosecuted as an additional felony charge against the two defendants.
A criminal defense attorney working on a case such as this would determine whether the additional charges of gang affiliation are entirely relevant and factually based to the crimes charged.
You should consult with a criminal defense lawyer if you or someone you love have been charged with a criminal offense, especially if those charges include classifying a minor defendant as an adult.