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Saturday, February 2, 2008

Boy, 11, found competent to stand trial

He is accused of forcing a 7-year-old to perform a sex act on a school bus.

Valerie Olander / The Detroit News

An 11-year-old boy accused of forcing a 7-year-old to perform a sexual act on a Howell school bus last May was found competent on Friday to stand trial in Livingston Juvenile Court.

The competency evaluation was the second such test ordered. The first determined the boy was unable to understand the charges against him at a mid-December hearing.

A pretrial date has been set for Feb. 15 before Judge Carol Hackett Garagiola.

The boy is one of two elementary-age boys charged with first and second degree criminal sexual conduct and gross indecency between males. A 9-year-old boy is scheduled to appear in court Feb. 8 for a settlement conference. The boys could be listed on the state's sex offender registry until age 30 if found guilty.

Defense attorney Carolyn Henry declined to comment on the specifics of the 11-year-old boy's competency test or recommendations made by Charles Clark, a psychologist from Ann Arbor. "I will say Dr. Clark conducted a thorough report. The findings will help this child out," she said.

The 11-year-old, who was a fifth-grader at Southwest Elementary School, was originally named as a witness by the 7-year-old who claimed the 9-year-old, then a fourth-grader at Challenger Elementary, was the initiator of the sex acts. The 11-year-old later confessed to participating in the acts, according to a police report.

The controversy that erupted in September shortly after charges were filed against the two boys resulted in an investigation by a law firm hired by the Howell School Board. At least two school principals and bus garage supervisors did not report the incident to Superintendent Chuck Breiner. Police reports do not match statements later made by school personnel claiming the incident was a "bullying complaint."

The investigation is now entering its fifth month. The attorney from Lansing-based Thrun Law firm was expected to conduct one additional interview as of last Monday, according to board President Phil Westmoreland.

A special closed session board meeting has been called for 7 p.m. Tuesday to discuss union negotiations and Breiner's employment contract, according to a report by WHMI-FM. Westmoreland could not be reached for comment on Friday.

You can reach Valerie Olander at (517) 552-5503 or

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