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Judge says keeping Slender Man case in adult court will prevent repeat of crime

Waukesha County Circuit Judge Michael Bohren speaks at a Waukesha County court in Waukesha, Wis., Monday, Aug. 10, 2015. The judge ruled that two girls accused of stabbing a classmate to please the online horror character Slender Man will stay in adult court, where they could face decades in prison. (Mike De Sisti/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via AP, Pool)

Waukesha County Circuit Judge Michael Bohren speaks in the courtroom in Waukesha on Monday. The judge ruled that two girls accused of stabbing a classmate to please the online horror character Slender Man will stay in adult court, where they could face decades in prison. (Photos by Mike De Sisti/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via AP, Pool)

A Waukesha County judge has ruled that two girls who are accused of stabbing a classmate in order please a fictional character will continue to be tried in adult court.

Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier, both 13, will appear in person for a joint arraignment hearing Aug. 21.

Circuit Court Judge Michael Bohren spent about 45 minutes Monday explaining his reasoning behind denying Geyser’s and Weier’s request for a waiver that would transfer their cases to juvenile court.

One of Weier’s attorneys, Maura McMahon, said outside the courtroom that she was “of course” disappointed and her client didn’t understand what had happened. She said she planned to discuss an appeal with the girl.

Of the three things the defense had the burden of proving to secure the waiver, Bohren said that the defense had failed to show that the preponderance of the evidence supported at least two. Those were:

1) that the transfer to juvenile court would not diminish the seriousness of the offense, and

2) that it was not necessary to keep the case in adult court in order to keep others from committing a similar crime.

In his ruling, Bohren noted that regardless of whether the girls were tried in the adult system or the juvenile system, they would both be transferred to Copper Lake Girls School in Irma, where they would be held until around the age of 18.

While Weier and Geyser would indeed have more supervision after being transferred to the adult female jail, some of Bohren’s comments about the jail suggested the quality of the treatment the girls would receive would not be on par with what they would get at Copper Lake.

In particular, he noted that the jail was overcrowded, housing more than 800 people but having only a capacity for 600. He also noted that that there was a wait list for many of the jail’s programs.

Morgan Geyser

Morgan Geyser, one of two girls accused of stabbing a classmate, leaves a Waukesha County courtroom on Monday.

“This court wasn’t completely impressed with what Taycheedah offered,” said Bohren.

For that reason, Bohren said, the court’s main concern is what will happen to the girls afterward.

Defense attorneys for both girls have argued that their clients are mentally ill and will receive better treatment in the juvenile system.

Bohren disagreed. If Weier and Geyser are transferred to children’s court, he said, they would be released without supervision or treatment after they turn 18.

If the girls were instead kept in the adult system, he said, they would continue to receive some kind of mental health treatment and supervision once they are released to Taycheedah Correctional Institution in Fond du Lac.

Keeping the cases in adult court, he said, would show the serious nature of their crimes and would help ensure the punishment could serve as a deterrent to others.

“The real issue is what happens in a couple years. … There has to be assurance that it does not happen again – assurance to the public,” said Bohren.

Anissa Weier is readied to leave a Waukesha County courtroom on Monday.

Anissa Weier is readied to leave a Waukesha County courtroom on Monday.

The girls’ attorneys had asked Bohren to find the state law forcing 10-year-olds into adult court unconstitutional because it leads to cruel and unusual punishment. But he refused to find the statutes unconstitutional Thursday, writing that juveniles aren’t as culpable for their actions as adults but that doesn’t exempt them from adult sentences.

Both defendants appeared in court Monday. Geyser wore a black hoodie and spent most of the ruling hunched over, rocking back and forth at first. Weier, on the other hand, wore a turquoise printed shirt, spoke to her lawyers and looked around the courtroom.

The girls are each charged with attempted first-degree intentional homicide. They face a maximum of 65 years in prison and are being held at the Washington County Detention and Correctional Facility.

Monday’s ruling comes after four days of reverse-waiver hearings in June.

Bohren ruled in March that there was probable cause to charge Weier and Geyser with first-degree intentional homicide in the stabbing of Peyton Leutner.

The girls have been charged with stabbing Leutner 19 times and leaving her for dead in at a park May 31, 2014, following a sleepover. The girls have said they planned the attack to please a fictional character known as Slender Man. All three girls were 12 at the time of the stabbing.

Under Wisconsin law, anyone who is 10 or older and is charged with first-degree attempted homicide is automatically considered an adult.

Police captured the two girls later in the day of the attack, as they were walking to Nicolet National Forest, 300 miles away. They believed Slender Man lived in a mansion there. Leutner has since recovered.

Both girls’ lawyers argued that the charges should be dismissed, saying their clients believed Slender Man would have killed their families if the girls had not attacked their friend. A dismissal would have let prosecutors refile the case in juvenile court.

Prosecutors argued for the case to stay in adult court because evidence presented during preliminary hearings suggested that there was probable cause to support charges of first-degree intentional homicide.

Bohren ruled Dec. 18 that both girls were competent to stand trial.

The Associated Press also contributed to this report.

About Erika Strebel, [email protected]

Erika Strebel is the law beat reporter for the Wisconsin Law Journal and a law school student at UW-Madison. She can be reached at 414-225-1825.

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