A 16-year-old became first of five defendants to plead guilty in a Key Biscayne armed robbery, taking a plea deal Monday that will send him to a “high-risk residential commitment” facility for an unspecified period. The male defendant spoke quietly as he pleaded to one charge of armed robbery and one charge of carrying a concealed firearm.
The plea stems from an early-morning confrontation on E. Enid Drive in January, where two boys said a group of youths jumped out of cars and threatened them with guns.
“By entering into these two pleas, two cases, you’re giving up certain rights, you’re giving up your right to a trial, you’re giving up your right to confront and cross examine the state’s witnesses and you’re giving up your right to call your own witnesses. Do you understand that?” Circuit Judge Dawn Denaro asked.
“Yeah,” the teenager said.
The high-risk residential facility, under the supervision of the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, is “hardware secure with perimeter fencing and locking doors” and generally does not allow youth to have access to the community.”
There is no specified sentence, but a spokesperson for the State Attorney’s Office said youths typically spend nine months to a year at a residential facility, depending on how they progress with a rehabilitative program. The decision on release is solely made by DJJ officials.
Prosecutors dropped a charge related to a series of burglaries the same night, leading Judge Denaro to show some irritation that the State Attorney’s Office didn’t provide a way to order restitution for credit cards, wallets, sunglasses, and other items that prosecutors said were taken.
“I’m sure people are angry, mad, angry about what happened. And they deserve their money if it was taken,” Denaro said. A prosecutor asked for a brief delay to get the figures, but the judge said it was time to make a decision on the burglary charge because the case was three months old. Prosecutors then decided to drop the burglary charge.
Three other juveniles and one adult defendant still face charges. Prosecutors so far have not indicated whether the juveniles would be tried as adults. They remain in “secure detention” awaiting disposition. The adult, Levare Holton, 18, has had his arraignment delayed several times. He was released on his own recognizance, court records show.
The case continues to have an impact months later. Last week, the Village Council moved forward with street lighting improvements on E. Enid through a program run by Florida Power and Light. The cost for 17 lights is $660 monthly with a $17,000 installation fee.
“It’s a critical area, it’s very dark. And we wanted to do it the right way, want to make sure it’s well lit,” said Jake Ozyman, the Village’s public works chief. Mayor Mike Davey cautioned, however, that a larger street lighting program has to be approached carefully, because some are adamantly for more lighting and others adamantly opposed.
“When we talk about streetlights, you’re going to see an issue that divides neighborhoods house by house.”
NOTE: The Key Biscayne Independent generally does not identify minors charged with offenses unless they are charged as adults.
Tony Winton is the editor-in-chief of the Key Biscayne Independent and president of Miami Fourth Estate, Inc. He worked previously at The Associated Press for three decades winning multiple Edward R. Murrow awards. He was president of the News Media Guild, a journalism union, for 10 years. Born in Chicago, he is a graduate of Columbia University. His interests are photography and technology, sailing, cooking, and science fiction.