Originally created 02/14/98

Juvenile receives sentence

A teen-ager convicted of sexually assaulting a younger, smaller cellmate at the Regional Youth Detention Center was sentenced Friday to 12 years in prison after the victim's mother told a judge about nightmares and trauma the 12-year-old still endures.

Prosecutors urged a stiff penalty for Robert Young Springer, 15, saying he hadn't accepted responsibility for the crime.

He could have faced up to 50 years in prison after being convicted of aggravated sodomy and aggravated child molestation in the assault on the 12-year-old, who told officials he was terrorized during three days.

Another teen in the same cell, Hugh Ashley Aires, 17, pleaded guilty to the same charges and testified against Mr. Springer in January.

"This has torn our family apart," the victim's mother told Richmond County Superior Court Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet. "He still lives with the nightmares, and he will have to live with it for the rest of his life. I see it -- what it has done to him and what it has done to me."

Friends of Mr. Springer's family talked about watching the baby-faced teen grow up taking karate lessons and mowing lawns, and said he was "in the wrong place at the wrong time" at the detention center.

Mr. Springer, who has maintained his innocence, told Judge Overstreet that he couldn't understand a jury's guilty verdict.

"We believe the defendant has shown an inability to accept the guilt the jury has found against him," Assistant District Attorney Patricia Johnson responded. "We would ask for more than 10 years because we feel he needs more rehabilitation."

Under Georgia law, a person convicted of aggravated sodomy or aggravated child molestation must serve 10 years in prison before becoming eligible for parole.


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