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13-year-old learns punishment for his role in fatal beating of student

Updated March 13, 2024 - 5:19 pm

A judge ordered a 13-year-old boy to be sent to a correctional facility after he admitted guilt in the fatal beating of a Rancho High School student.

The boy was one of nine teenagers arrested in the death of 17-year-old Jonathan Lewis, who was attacked on Nov. 1 outside of Rancho High School’s campus. Five of the juveniles have not been identified because their cases have remained in Family Court, and four have admitted to voluntary manslaughter charges.

The teenager ordered to be sent to a correctional facility on Wednesday is the youngest who has been charged in connection with Lewis’ death, according to the teen’s court-appointed attorney, Anthony Wright.

In the juvenile court system, a defendant is not sentenced to a correctional facility for a set amount of time. Instead, the boy may be released on parole after completing various diversion programs while in custody.

The judge ordered the boy to attend school while in custody and mandated conditions for the boy, including a mentorship program, gang intervention program and critical-thinking class. He also will be required to complete 200 hours of community service when released on parole and will be ordered to pay restitution to Lewis’ family in an amount not yet set by the court.

Two other juveniles have been sentenced to a correctional facility and are facing similar restrictions, said prosecutor Summer Clarke.

Investigators have said that Lewis was attacked by a group of up to 10 teenagers in an alleyway near the high school. The fatal beating was captured on video that showed the teens stomping, kicking and punching Lewis until he fell unconscious. He died of his injuries six days later.

Surveillance footage showed that Lewis pushed a student, who was one of the teens later arrested, and then punched another student before he was swarmed by the group of teenagers.

‘The world needs to see’

Before the judge ordered the boy’s sentence on Wednesday, Lewis’ mother, Mellisa Ready, asked the prosecutors to hold up a photo of her son lying in a hospital bed.

“I think the world needs to see what these students did to my baby,” said Ready, who attended the hearing through a video call.

The 13-year-old did not make a voluntary statement during the hearing.

Wright said that in the aftermath of the “media frenzy” surrounding Lewis’ death, it took a long time for attorneys to obtain all of the surveillance footage in the case. He said the evidence showed the “extent of each child’s culpability.”

“I think it’s easy for us to have knee-jerk, jump-to-conclusion judgments about things when they first come out in the media,” he said. “It takes some time for all the professionals to review and digest the information to figure out what justice should be served in a case like this.”

Family Court Judge Amy Mastin acknowledged that she believed the boy’s defense attorney when he argued that the 13-year-old had shown significant remorse during court proceedings. She said the juvenile court system was focused on rehabilitation for the juvenile defendants.

“I am grateful as well, Ms. Ready, that you understand that and that you know the court’s focus on its job to attempt rehabilitation does not diminish its empathy for you,” the judge told Lewis’ mother. “I feel your pain.”

‘A lot of failures’

Mastin said there had been “a lot of failures” in the boy’s life and that his caretakers had denied government services after he experienced truancy issues and was accused of possessing controlled substances.

“I want to be clear, this is a society problem, and we as individuals all have a responsibility to our children, and to the rest of us, to address their needs, not ignore them, not refuse services, and then not give any further attention to the problem so that we end up here,” Mastin said.

A separate hearing was held Wednesday for the juvenile in the Family Court system who has not admitted guilt. Defense attorney Edward Miley had requested an extensive competency evaluation for his client, but the teenager has been found competent to face charges.

Attorneys told the judge Wednesday that the discovery process is still ongoing in that teenager’s case.

Four of the nine teenagers who have been arrested — Treavion Randolph, 16; Dontral Beaver, 16; Damien Hernandez, 18; and Gianni Robinson, 17 — have been charged as adults because of their ages. They have pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit battery.

They are set to appear in District Court on Thursday morning.

Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240.

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