The Ithaca Police Department has arrested three subjects — all under the age of 17 — on charges of gang assault in the first degree and assault in the first degree for a stabbing that occurred on Friday evening near the Ithaca Commons.
On Friday, a victim who was “bleeding profusely from the face and back” after being stabbed several times near the 100 block of North Cayuga Street was transported via helicopter to a regional trauma center. The male victim is now in “critical but stable condition,” according to an updated press release from the police.
Jamie Williamson, Ithaca Police Department’s public information officer, told The Sun that the incident “appears to be a completely random act of violence,” and the police don’t believe at this time that the subjects and the victim knew each other.
Two subjects were sent to a Juvenile Detention Facility, while the third was remanded to a Specialized Secure Detention Facility. Williamson said that the distinction in where to send the subjects was made based on their ages, but declined to comment on what was the exact age of the suspects or what the age criteria for the various facilities was.
Previously, people who were 16 years or older were treated like “any old adult,” according to Williamson. However, recent Raise the Age legislation passed by New York State has made it “profoundly different what police officers can and cannot do,” including where they can speak to people, who has to be present when people are interviewed and where subjects are sent after arraignment.
“It just adds another layer of protection for certain people,” Williamson said. “It adds more work to what we do, but we can certainly appreciate what the state is trying to do.”
New York was previously one of two states that automatically prosecuted 16- and 17-year olds as adults prior to this Raise the Age legislation, the first phase of which went into effect this October. The legislation created a new “Adolescent Offender” category, such that 16- or 17-years-olds who committed a felony-level crime would be put in newly created “specialized secure juvenile detention facilities for older youth.”
Williamson said the police worked with the District Attorney’s Office, the Tompkins County Attorney’s Office and the judge to make sure they followed the protocols set forth in the new legislation. District Attorney Matthew Van Houten also declined to provide more information about the age thresholds for the various detention facilities and whether the subjects could be tried as adults.
Gang assault in the first degree and assault in the first degree are both Class B felonies. Gang assault in the first degree occurs when someone has the intent to cause harm and causes serious physical injury to a third person and is aided by two or more other people.
Class B violent felonies can carry 5-25 year sentences, according to the New York State Penal Code. According to Van Houten, that applies to adults, but for juveniles, there’s a “huge range and there are different tiers of laws that provide different levels of protection based upon their age,” so he couldn’t provide more information about how much time the subjects could receive.
All three subjects are due back in Ithaca City Court on December 10.