Two defendants accused of killing a duck from the Central Alabama Community College pond were granted youthful offender status Monday.
Jacob Thomas Frye of Cartersville, Georgia and Thomas Grant of Wetumpka were CACC students when authorities said the pair took the duck during a party thrown by CACC students. Attorneys for the two had previously filed motions seeking youthful offender status for Frye and Grant. Fifth Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jeremy Duerr explained to Fifth Judicial Circuit Court Judge Steve Perryman he has strongly opposed to the defendants receiving the status.
“The ducks are kind of like mascots,” Duerr said. “People go to the pond to feed them all the time. I go with my child to feed the ducks.”
In addition to the public nature of the ducks, Duerr said the crime of aggravated cruelty to animals committed by Frye and Grant was especially brutal. Law enforcement at the time of the arrests said the pair used a baseball bat on the duck. Although the assalut did not kill the duck, it left it in dire need of help.
“It’s a series of a few events ultimately the duck was found in a bag in the woods the next day still alive,” Duerr said. “The suffering of the animal was great. The injuries were so bad the vet had to put it down.”
CACC spokesperson Brett Pritchard said in June school administrators were aware of the incident.
“It was reported to the college that there was an incident involving students and a duck,” Pritchard said in a statement. “The incident was reported to have taken place off campus and was reported to local law enforcement for follow up.”
Pritchard said the school took action.
“The students are no longer enrolled at CACC,” he said.
Pritchard said CACC employs off-duty Alexander City police officers for campus security.
Aggravated cruelty to animals is a Class C felony for which Frye and Grant could have faced a prison sentence of one to 10 years.
Youthful offender can be granted to a person under 21 years of age at the time they allegedly commited a criminal offense. When a person is granted youthful offender by a judge, this designation has several benefits, some of them substantial.
First if the offense is a felony, youthful offender drastically reduces the range of punishment in the case to a maximum sentence of three years. Even for a Class C felony a youthful offender designation reduces the maximum time of incarceration from 10 years to three years.
The granting of youthful offender has the effect of sealing the record of the case. Any record of the charge, arrest and court proceedings are made off limits and are not accessible to anyone not involved in the case. This can be important as a young person embarks on his/her life and applies for jobs or educational opportunities.
Tallapoosa Publishers Inc. obtained the information involved in the case before Frye and Grant were granted youthful offender status while they were treated as adults.
The charge will not show up on their records as convictions, but instead the court will treat it as an adjudication and none of the usual effects of a conviction will apply. A person adjudicated as a youthful offender will not be deprived of his/her civil rights such as the right to vote or the right to carry a firearm.
The trade-off is that in order to be treated as a youthful offender, a person forfeits his/her right to a trial by jury and any trial would be before a judge only in a proceeding that is closed to the public.