By Jack Molitor
The Herald Bulletin
---- — ANDERSON — An Elwood teen who was adjudicated for having sexual relations with three young girls, including a 13-year-old girl who is now pregnant, was released to parental custody on Tuesday morning after being placed on probation.
Madison County Juvenile Court Judge George Pancol decided against prosecutors' recommendations and opted to give the 17-year-old boy an opportunity for rehabilitation. The probation was left open-ended with stipulations the boy receive sexual behavior counseling.
The boy was charged with three counts of child molest in January after an investigation of other victims. After a hearing on May 3, the juvenile court entered a "truth" verdict — the equivalent of a guilty verdict without the stigma.
The age of consent for sex in Indiana is 16, with an exception being 14 if the parties are dating. Even then, the age difference can't be more than four years.
The decision had been delayed twice this month, and came just three days before doctors plan to induce labor for the pregnant Elwood teen, who is now 14. Courts do not release names of juveniles who are processed in court, and The Herald Bulletin does not publish the names of victims.
The boy is just a few months from turning 18, and Pancol said he preferred probation to sentencing him to the Department of Correction because the DOC would likely have released the teen soon anyway. In such cases, the DOC determines detention duration.
Madison County Prosecutor Rodney Cummings said it wasn't the sentence his office was seeking, but he respects the judge's decision.
"Given the fact there were three different victims, we felt it was appropriate for him to spend time in the DOC. The judge didn't see it that way," Cummings said.
The case highlights a larger cultural problem, Cummings said, where high school students and even younger children are pressured by society to be sexually active far too early.
"It's definitely a problem we deal with regularly," said the prosecutor. "It often comes down to cases between senior boys and freshman girls. And a lot of times it's reversed, it's not just the boys who start it."
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