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Colfax rock-throwers get jail time, community service

Teens are sorry for actions, attorneys say
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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The three Colfax High School teens charged with throwing a freeway barrier and rocks off an overpass were sentenced Thursday to jail, probation and community service. Hunter Perez, 16, who is also known as Hunter Owens, Samuel Edward Quinlan, 16, and Sean Edwin Steele, 17, were ordered to serve 10 months in the Placer County Juvenile Detention Center as part of a plea deal reached with the Placer County District Attorney’s Office. Each teen pleaded no contest Thursday to three of the original eight felony counts: conspiracy to commit a crime, assault with a deadly weapon and assault by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury. The remaining counts were dismissed. The three now have a strike on their records as a result of the second count. The teens have the option of serving the last 50 days of their time through alternative sentencing. They are scheduled to appear in court at 8:30 a.m. Nov. 4 in Auburn’s Placer County Jail courtroom to review their credits for time served, and for discussion about how much restitution is owed to their victims. The three were also sentenced to three years formal probation and 300 hours of community service. Judge Garrett Olney ordered the teens to report to the Juvenile Detention Center Thursday to begin their sentences. On July 26 Perez, Steele and Quinlan threw a barricade from the Colfax Canyon Way overpass into traffic. The barricade hit a tractor-trailer driven by Derrick Scrivens. A semitruck driven by Will Kernan was also struck by a rock. Neither trucker was injured. They also threw a large rock, which smashed through the windshield of Sacramento resident Jose Palomera’s vehicle. The boulder crushed his jaw and broke several bones in his cheek. Palomera was hospitalized and had to have his jaw wired shut. He spent five days in the hospital before returning home. Palomera has said he is the pastor of First Free Church in Sacramento. The California Highway Patrol Gold Run Division arrested Perez, Steele and Quinlan Aug. 12, and the Placer County District Attorney’s Office decided to charge them as adults. Palomera was not in the courtroom Thursday, but the Journal spoke to him Thursday afternoon. Palomera said he was satisfied with the sentence. “I think the law is just,” he said. “(The District Attorney’s Office) did a good job, and I’m very proud everything went so quickly. They are young, but I hope they learn something about their mistake, and that they will change their lives.” Palomera said he is on the road to recovery and has been told he should be completely healed in about two years. “I’m recovering little by little … and I have started eating a little, soft things,” Palomera said. “I’m still in pain, not that much, but I’m still in pain.” As part of their probation Perez, Steele and Quinlan were ordered not to have any contact with the victims. If the teens violate the terms of their probation they could spend as much as six years in state prison, Olney said. At the end of the sentencing Olney gave the three teens some advice. “There are two ways to look at this,” Olney said. “One is, ‘Oh, my God, my life is over, this is terrible,’ and the other is, ‘This is the first day of the rest of my life.’ I want you to hopefully view this as an unusual circumstance that will never happen again. Six years in state prison is hanging over your head.” The Placer County District Attorney’s Office declined to comment on the case. Defense Attorney Dean Starks, who represented Steele, said he was definitely bothered by one aspect of the case. “I think it went OK,” Starks said outside the courtroom Thursday. “I’m not happy they had to plead to actual adult felonies, but that is not in my power to change.” Defense Attorney Thomas Leupp, who represented Perez, said he disagrees with any District Attorney’s Office being able to charge minors as adults because 16- and 17-year-olds do more foolish things than adults. “I’m not in agreement with the law that allows district attorneys to charge people as adults with no judicial review, but that is the right of the district attorney, and that is the law that can’t be changed,” Leupp said outside the courtroom Thursday. Leupp said the teens are sorry for their actions. “I’m certain all these boys are very remorseful,” he said. “My client, before charges were even filed, went down with his mother and his pastor and visited Mr. Palomera. The choices they made were foolish and had tragic consequences. They are sorry for embarrassing their families, and embarrassing their communities and embarrassing their school.” Defense Attorney Jess Bedore, who represented Quinlan, said he did not think his client deserved what he got. “I think Sam Quinlan is an outstanding young man,” Bedore said. “He has lived an exemplary life. He made a mistake due to several factors, including alcohol. I did not think he deserved the punitive sentence he got.” Starks said there is a lesson youth and other members of the community can take away from this case. “I think the biggest lesson is don’t drink,” he said. “That is a lesson for everyone. Not a whole lot of intelligent stuff happens when people drink. It’s really important not to get drunk and then go have fun. I really don’t think these kids would have ever done anything like this sober.” Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com