CLEARWATER — The state Department of Juvenile Justice today recommended probation for two of the three teenagers accused in a vicious school bus beating in Gulfport last month. The state agency has not recommended a punishment for the third teen, but prosecutors say they have not made any plea offers in the case. “The state is not offering probation,” said Bruce Bartlett, the chief assistant state attorney for the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office. “We are not making a statement where probation is appropriate by any stretch of the imagination.” The three boys, all of whom are 15, appeared in juvenile court Tuesday for a hearing. Two are charged with aggravated battery, while the third is charged with aggravated battery and unarmed robbery, because police say he took the victim's money after the assault.
The teens were arrested July 10 after they ganged up on a 13-year-old student on a Pinellas County school bus after it left Lealman Intermediate School, which works with students at-risk for dropping out, according to Gulfport police. The older boys threw dozens of punches and kicked or stomped the 13-year-old at least 23 times, police said. The bus driver called for help to break up the attack, which was captured on a video that went viral and drew national attention. By the time police arrived at the bus, which was stopped at 20th Avenue South and 51st Street, the three 15-year-olds had left through the emergency exit. They were caught soon after. The victim said at least one of his assailants had tried to sell him drugs in a school bathroom and that he had refused, according to police. The boy told administrators at the school what had happened, but both rode home on the same bus. As the bus was stopping near the intersection, the three older boys punched and kicked the 13-year-old for nearly a minute. They kicked and stomped on him while he tried to crawl under the seat, according to police. The victim's arm was fractured in the assault. Another hearing is scheduled for Aug. 27. Lawyers are expected to delve into the teens' backgrounds and discuss possible punishments then. Prosecutors contemplated charging the three as adults but opted not to because of their ages and lack of any serious criminal background, Bartlett said. [email protected] (727) 215-6504