AJ Gonzalez case tried as juvenile or adult
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The Troubling Thing About the AJ Gonzalez Case

Also: a conservative radio station owner responds to controversy, this week in briefs

Adrian "A.J." Gonzalez is the middle of hearings examining whether he should be tried as a juvenile or an adult, as a result of changes after Prop 57 passed last year.

There’s an uncomfortable reality for supporters of Prop 57, the criminal reform initiative that voters approved last November, with three quarters of county residents supporting it, and locals rocked by the tragic death of Maddy Middleton two years ago. Last year’s criminal reform ballot measure, aimed primarily at rehabilitation, also forbids district attorneys from immediately charging any youths as adults, without a hearing first to weigh the matter—yes, even in the high-profile case of Adrian “A.J.” Gonzalez, the youth who’s been charged with raping and killing 8-year-old Middleton, his former neighbor at the Tannery Arts Center.

The question is: what could possibly drive any 15-year-old to commit such a violent sexual assault and murder? That answer, his defense team would argue, lies partly in a 39-page rundown of suspect Gonzalez’s life history and psychological background, compiled for the public defender.

When Gonzalez was six years old, he and his mother Reggie Factor were staying at the Rebele Family Shelter after moving away from Factor’s third husband, Joel Jimenez, when Jimenez found them both and kidnapped them. He then took them to an abandoned house, put a gun to Factor’s head and threatened to kill her, holding them both captive for days, according to the report, which shows a lesser-known side of Gonzalez. A hearing into whether or not Gonzalez should be tried as an adult has entered its sixth week.

Attorney Frankie Guzman, who co-authored Prop 57 and thinks most child criminals can be rehabilitated, says the news media often focuses on the victim in crafting narratives—spinning public opinion in the process—and ignores that the suspect is usually a victim as well. “Media looks for the big story, the sensationalized story,” says Guzman, director of the California Juvenile Justice Initiative in Oakland, adding that he does not discount the suffering of any victim’s family. “The coverage is designed to evoke an emotional response.”

If convicted as a juvenile, Gonzalez could stay behind bars until age 23, which Guzman says is plenty of time to rehabilitate young people. Needless to say, though, it stands in stark contrast to the much longer sentences he would get as an adult.

Gonzalez’s life up until Middleton’s eventual murder, according to the report, had been filled with constant change, parental neglect, physical abuse and persistent emotional abuse, which studies show is actually much more likely than physical abuse to make victims violent later in life. The report details that Gonzalez’s lifelong challenges were exacerbated by his struggles with Autism Spectrum Disorder, which went undiagnosed until after he was charged, and had made it difficult for him to cope with nonstop change in his early years. It also details repeated failures from school officials and Child Protective Services who did not step up on Gonzalez’s behalf, sometimes ignoring protocols in the process.

Gonzalez faces felony charges of murder, kidnapping, rape of a victim younger than 14, penetration by a foreign object, and two charges of forcible lewd acts upon a child.


TALKS ICK

KSCO owner Michael Zwerling says he’ll no longer allow anyone to spew “toxic subjects” over his airwaves. An editorial that aired Friday, Sept. 23 outlined that race-baiting, white genocide and anti-Jewish conspiracy theories would all be off-limits.

Twice-weekly KSCO host Georgia “Peach” Beardslee had been stirring up controversy, as reported by GT, mostly for racially charged remarks (“Shock Waves,” 9/13). Zwerling tells GT that KSCO doesn’t subscribe to rating services to track listenership, but Jonty McCollyer, the station’s digital media manager, says Beardslee gets 150 to 400 listeners online, live-streaming the host during each show, and that her online archive gets 1,000 visits per month.

Zwerling, in his editorial, hinted that his recent decision was business-related. “A talk radio station which traffics in negative toxic content cannot survive,” he said. “It’s like a diver with too much lead on the weight belt.” 

 

News Editor at |

Jacob, the news editor at Good Times, won the 2014 award for best local government coverage from the California Newspaper Publishers Association. A longtime basketball and football fanatic, Jacob has evolved into a shameless fair weather fan and band wagoner for hot West Coast sports teams. He also enjoys arguing with others about where to find the best burrito in town.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Alex

    October 5, 2017 at 7:32 am

    I can see young thieves as worthy candidates of a system which gives them a second chance, but murder? I don’t really want to take a chance. I would like to ask this guy, Frankie Guzman, who so readily sympathizes with the murderer, if he does want to take the chance — i.e. rehabilitation carries a likelihood of a relapse, is he willing to take the chance to see if A.J. Gonzalez will relapse or not? Again, this is not theft or petty crimes, it’s rape and murder. They can study Gonzalez all they want, blame the system and say it failed him (?), but releasing him again and having him kill another child… Well, the system wouldn’t be failing Gonzalez per say, but the victims. Madison did not get a second chance and Gonzalez, whether it was his upbringings or he is an innate cold-blooded murderer, waved his right to live free in our society. I really hope a bit of justice is served in this case.

  2. Robyn McIntyre

    September 29, 2017 at 10:31 pm

    Stephannie – My niece was kidnapped and murdered. Two of my sisters were raped. I was almost raped in my own home by an intruder, so I know the pain and fear associated with violent crimes against women and children. I believe the world would be better off without the people who commit heinous acts, HOWEVER – I remain opposed to the death penalty because it has been used to kill the innocent along with the guilty. I would rather have my tax money support monsters of the sort that Gonzalez appears to be for however long he lives than to take the chance that even ONE more innocent person dies for a crime he didn’t commit.

  3. Stephanie Kemmerer

    September 28, 2017 at 1:54 am

    Gonzalez’ case history is about as factual and credible as creationism. I am close to the Middleton’s and have attended many of the court dates. I also have an educational background in psychology, sociology and criminology as well as an educational and professional background in journalism. Trust me when I say no sympathy is warranted for Gonzalez. It’s easy to sit back in your living room and bemoan the death penalty, I know because I used to be against it, but when your life is personally touched by murder and rape and unimaginable horror, your opinion changes. I can make an educated guess that the people who voted for Prop 57 never had to deal with such an event. Imagination and reality are two very different things folks; we’re talking evolution versus creationism, with no room for intelligent design. This is not a gray area; this is black and white, and no matter how you look at it, facts are facts whether or not there is a missing link….and with Gonzalez, the only missing link is the lack of the death penalty.

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