The public may never know the fate of a 16-year-old driver who police say killed a bicyclist last summer.
BY PATRICK ORR – firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright: © 2009 Idaho Statesman
A Boise boy has already made his first Juvenile Court appearance in the death of well-known cycling enthusiast Kevin Pavlis. But what happened in the courtroom remains a mystery, since 4th District Juvenile Judge William Harrigfeld is keeping the case sealed from the public.
The sealing means there is no way to know if the teen is fighting the charge of vehicular manslaughter filed by Ada County prosecutors. If convicted of the charge, he could face up to 90 days in a detention center, three years of probation, a loss of driving privileges for up to three years, community service and financial restitution.
Pavlis, 37, of Boise, died after being hit on his bike June 11 by a sport-utility vehicle on Hill Road in Boise’s North End.
Eric Pavlis, Kevin Pavlis’ brother, said he understands why many in the Boise cycling community might be upset with the secrecy surrounding the case. He hopes that someday the court records are unsealed.
“That way, if my brother’s daughter wanted to know more about what happened to her dad, she could find out,” Pavlis said.
Unsealing the records later would be up to Harrigfeld, who was not available for comment Monday.
The first hearing, held sometime after prosecutors said Nov. 6 that the boy would be charged with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter, was an admit/deny hearing. That’s when a juvenile suspect admits guilt or decides to fight the charge.
Under Idaho law, only the child, parents, and attorneys are allowed to attend the hearing unless the judge grants special permission to other people who have an interest in the case, such as the family of a victim.
After a plea is entered, juvenile cases are then made open to the public, unless the judge enters a formal order to keep them sealed – as Harrigfeld did.
Boise police reports indicate Pavlis was riding legally in the eastbound bike lane on Hill Road when he was struck. Police say the boy was driving west just before he turned left onto Smith Road, where his vehicle collided with Pavlis. Pavlis died a short time later.
Some members of the Boise cycling community have filled message boards and swapped e-mails questioning the handling of the case.
Ada County Prosecutor Greg Bower tried to reassure cycling groups in October that his prosecutors were working closely with Pavlis’ family and that they planned to seek appropriate justice. Prosecutors had said they would tell the public whatever information they could about the case but warned that if a judge sealed it, they couldn’t say anything.
Bower said Monday that while he could not comment on the Pavlis case, “as a matter of policy, we believe juvenile prosecution should be open, and the process transparent.”
A “ghost bike” tribute – a bike painted white and chained to a fence – still sits near the intersection, a reminder to everyone who walks, bikes or drives by.
Kevin Pavlis helped manage Boise’s Idaho Mountain Touring outdoor-recreation store. He spent a lot of his free time with local cycling groups like the Lactic Acid Cycling Race Team.
Survivors include his wife, Elise, and their daughter, Sarma, who is named after Pavlis’ mother. She was 2 when her father died.
When a child under 18 in Ada County is charged with a crime, an admit/deny hearing is usually scheduled in Juvenile Court. If the child admits to the charge, a juvenile court judge schedules a sentencing hearing and decides what, if any, punishment the offender will receive.
If the juvenile denies guilt, a trial is scheduled. If the juvenile is found guilty at trial, the judge will order an evaluation and schedule a sentencing.
Juvenile cases are sealed until after the admit/deny hearing, where they are then made open to the public, unless the judge orders them closed.
Most juvenile crimes involve small thefts, burglaries, assaults, vandalism, possession of drug paraphernalia and disturbing the peace. More than 3,700 charges against children were filed in Ada County last year.
Idaho Code requires juveniles age 14 and older to be charged in adult court with serious violent felonies like murder, rape or arson. Those cases are open to the public unless a district judge finds there are “extraordinary circumstances” that justify closing them.