Analysis: Pranks and punishment; is ‘stupidity of youth’ a just excuse?

Kate Dalley is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives morning show on Fox News 1450 AM 96.7 FM . The opinions stated in this article are solely hers and not those of St. George News.

UPDATE 3:36 p.m. factual clarifications.

OPINION – I have been both the recipient and the perpetrator of many a prank throughout my 43 years. Fantastic pranks.

At my high school, one of the legendary class pranks involved hanging the human cadavers  (taken from the science department) from the highest building at the school with rope, welcoming students to the last day of school. It was irreverent, awful and, I have to admit, really funny at the same time.

In college, I had my friends “kidnap” a fellow student that I was interested in, blindfold him and drop him off in the sand dunes to my awaiting meal and romantic evening.  He was pushed out of a car going 10 mph onto sand, rolled several times, landed disoriented in front of me waiting for him. He thought it was very funny and we laughed about it for quite awhile.

Then, there are the pranks that go horribly wrong.

In Santa Clara recently, an adolescent girl was jogging in her neighborhood when three teenage boys wearing masks and no shirts, grabbed her and put her into the bed of their pickup truck under a truck bed cover and drove around for some time before she managed to escape when they came to a stop.

It still is not clear whether she recognized the boys or knew who they were when they grabbed her. If they were older than she, she may have thought this was a stranger abduction. That would have been terrifying.

The boys are now each charged with a single count of kidnapping – a second-degree felony were they charged as adults. And the school district is responding with its legally required processes.

According to local news reports, the girl’s father was furious the night of the kidnapping and said the incident caused trauma to his daughter, but he is now voicing concern and a hope that the boys not receive unreasonably severe penalties.

I think that the boys thought this was a prank and did not mean to harm this girl physically or emotionally. This was a prank that went way too far.

I can see both sides of this issue.

I have a beautiful 17-year-old daughter and if this happened to her and she was traumatized  – worse, thought to be abducted – I would be enraged and want the boys to pay for their crime.

I also have teenage boys. Teenage boys, from time to time, can be missing valuable brain cells and make idiotic decisions. If my boys had been guilty of a prank like this, I would have been outraged and the “wrath of mom” would of harbored no boundaries to the consequences they would be subjected to – by me.

The question is, should the boys do hard time and be sent to prison? I hope not. Their expulsion from school and some community service would be more appropriate for this prank-gone-wrong. Intentions are important when building a case for the prosecution.

This world of political correctness, in which in other examples children are subject to suspension and accused of sexual harassment – a 9-year-old for telling his teacher that she is cute, a 7-year-old for kicking another boy in the groin, – is mind boggling and infuriating.

The zero-tolerance rule has left me with zero tolerance for the school systems that are too quick to shame, accuse and punish kids who are just being kids.

Two wrongs do not make a right in this case. To inflict lifelong repercussions on the idiotic, one-time actions of these boys would be a second wrong.

I think the lesson was learned in this incident the moment the police took these three young men into custody and arrested them. I am sure that the night spent in jail was a big wake-up call to the seriousness of their stupidity.

These “kidnappers” need to rally around this young girl and make sure their apology to her is heartfelt and meaningful. Surely, these boys would be willing to spend some time going around to the local schools and delivering a message on what a prank actually consists of and how it can go too far.  That would be a great punishment for their actions and time well spent learning a valuable lesson about how our actions can affect others.

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Copyright 2012 St. George News.

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  • Mike H May 10, 2012 at 11:17 am

    I would be interested to know what the boys’ true intentions were. Were they really just messing around and playing a prank or did they have something far more insidious in mind? At this point, only they know since we only know who the victim was and have no idea who the boys are and cannot base any kind of opinion on their past actions.
    I am concerned what the next step would have been in their little “prank”. Now I’m not trying to make a leap here and think that their ultimate goal rhymes with Grape but man that is a scary idea when you know she escaped and was not let go.
    So the question is, since we cannot charge them based on things we worry they might have done, how do we know how lenient to be with them? It’s all well and good to assume that, “oh they were just boys being boys,” but what if they weren’t. This (from what I can tell from the media coverage) doesn’t sound like the boys and the girl knew one another. Who does that? Who abducts someone as a prank when they don’t even know the person. I’m surprised that they haven’t been charged with something more along the lines of a terrorist act. The girl was terrified and if that doesn’t define terrorist act, I don’t know what was.
    I would hate for these boys’ lives to be completely ruined if indeed it was simply a prank gone horribly wrong, but man, people need to take responsibility for their actions, even 16 yo boys. I don’t think they should be locked up for decades or anything but we really need to make sure the punishment isn’t one that they can just shrug off.

  • Firefly May 10, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    Kidnapping is a second degree felony, not a prank. “Intentions are important when building a case for the prosecution”, REALLY??? They were not charged with INTENT to commit kidnapping. They kidnapped a 14 year old girl. The victim is now traumatized, according to her father. “To inflict lifelong repurcussions on the idiotic, onetime actions of these boys….” Again, REALLY???? What about the lifelong repurcussions inflicted on the victim? These boys need to accept what ever the punishment is for THE kidnapping they commited. Intent to commit kidnapping is whole lot different than actually kidnapping someone. They kidnapped, they need to pay for their actions. Who is to say next time they’ll just think, “all we got was community service, going to local high schools “delkivering a message about pranks gone wrong, and we got expelled from school, lets do it again”. Sorry Kate, I disagree with you on this one.

  • SoUtah May 10, 2012 at 4:51 pm

    I do know the boys quite well and they wouldn’t hurt a fly. The story she is telling is she “escaped” when in reality they stopped and let her out of the truck after only being with them for less than 60 seconds. Before this incident one of the boys was friends with the girl but because no words were spoken and masks were not removed she went home not knowing exactly who took her. As a parent I am sure if your child came home and said three people put you in the back of the truck and drove around with you and you aren’t sure who they were you would be VERY upset. But Is it really best to send 3 boys who are honor students with absolutely zero crime history to prison with a bunch of people who are criminals and have committed serious crimes. NO WAY!!!! Definitely punish them. Give them community service make them learn a lesson but DO NOT let them spend some of the most influential years of their lives living with bad examples. This would be a horrible mistake. A sincere apology is more than deserved but I believe these boys have learned there lesson and will continue learning there lesson from there parents even if all legal charges were dropped.

  • Annie B. May 10, 2012 at 10:35 pm

    I agree that too harsh of a punishment would be as big of a mistake as too lenient of a punishment. I hope that the families and officials dealing directly with this case keep both sides of the coin in mind. Although I lean more to the side of doing what is best for the victim firstly, and what is best for the perpetrators secondarily.

    There is only one thing in this article I take issue with
    “If they were older than she, she may have thought this was a stranger abduction. That would have been terrifying.”

    That makes it sound as though it should have been less scary to the victim if she knew who her captors were. In my opinion, knowing them would not have made the experience any less terrifying. If she knows anything about rape she was probably going through the worst case scenario in her mind whether she knew who the boys were or not….and if she knew them she probably also knew that if she survived the ordeal she might have to confront these boys or their families. That or face them day after day in silence at school or in her neighborhood. When I was a child two boys who I thought were my friends held me down and forced my pants off of me so they could see my vagina while they gloated and laughed. I was terrified and humiliated. I still deal with it. The fact that I still had to see both of them at school and in my neighborhood every day actually made it worse than if they had been complete strangers that I never had to see again.

    And to So Utah, I’m sorry but saying you know the boys personally and that they wouldn’t hurt a fly and that they are honor students doesn’t make me feel any better about the boy’s intentions. I knew boys growing up that plenty of adults would have said the same thing about, that they wouldn’t hurt a fly…but get those same boys together in a group and they would turn into downright bullies.

  • cvj May 11, 2012 at 5:12 am

    Who cares if they are honor students? Should the law punish them more harshly if they have a less than stellar past? If they are smart enough to do well in school they should be smart enough to realize what a stupid “prank” this is.
    Also hanging human remains outside your school is not funny. I am sure family members of the deceased would be happy to know a loved ones remains that were donated to help in education were desecrated for a “prank”

  • disgusted May 11, 2012 at 8:32 am

    I really hope these boys are punished and don’t get a slap on the wrist. @SoUtah just because there “honor students” does not excuse this! Maybe they shouldn’t go to prison but they at least need to serve more then a night in detetention. “Is it really best to send 3 boys who are honor students with absolutely zero crime history to prison with a bunch of people who are criminals and have committed serious crimes. NO WAY!!!! Definitely punish them. Give them community service make them learn a lesson but DO NOT let them spend some of the most influential years of their lives living with bad examples. This would be a horrible mistake. A sincere apology is more than deserved but I believe these boys have learned there lesson and will continue learning there lesson from there parents even if all legal charges were dropped” really? maybe they should of thought about there most “influential years” before they stole this poor girls away from her! Her life has been changed by this forever I’m sure. Please tell me how they have learned there lesson and what are the parents teaching there “honor roll” children if the kids think something like this is a ‘prank’ I’m sure if you were friends with the girls parents or this happened to your kid, your attitude would be different. Being a mother myself to a young daughter I can’t understand how ANY adult would try to play this off as a prank its truly a sad world we live in

  • Dianna Narciso May 11, 2012 at 2:47 pm

    You had human cadavers at your high school? I’m not buying that…

  • William May 11, 2012 at 9:53 pm

    I disagree with this article on more levels than I could conscientiously articulate in a single response. The rationale used and the conclusions drawn are simply unbelievable from a person claiming to have lived 43 years.
    These boys behavior was simply intolerable, whether they deemed it a prank or not. They should be punished to the full extent of the law. Should they be publicly humiliated? That is subject to your definition of public humiliation. But, yes they should be made examples of for every future fool, of any age, that by some irrational logic comes to the conclusion that kidnapping under any circumstances is justified.
    Rationalizing their behavior as a “harmless prank” simply suggests that the moral turpitude of one making such a conclusion is at a universally low level.

  • Facts May 14, 2012 at 7:52 am

    It is very frustrating to see so many people make such harsh comments about this girl and the 3 boys when they know nothing about what really happened. Most of you out there base your comments on misguided information and an embellished story the media has tried to create for viewer interest. I must have read 100 comments over the last week stating how this young girl is traumatized and will never be the same. None of us know how this is affecting her. She might be traumatized from her parents putting her on TV and being forced to make up a story. If I had to guess, she might be losing sleep at night feeling guilty now that she is realizing that she has gotten 3 of her previous friends in serious trouble over a two minute incident that she knew was a prank and knew who the pranksters were before she even went to bed that night. I’m sick of people questioning what would’ve happened if she didn’t escape. The FACT is that she didn’t escape, the boys stopped and let her out at the end of the prank after driving for less than two minutes. It was dumb of the boys not to reveal themselves when they let her out. If they would’ve then the girls parents couldn’t talked to the boys parents rather than the cops. However, everyone knew everyone before going to bed that night. I’m sure the girls parents have now learned how good these boys really are. That is why they are easing up on the suggested severity of the punishment. For those of you who aren’t in the St. George or Santa Clara community, your comments hold no weight. You don’t know what really happened; you only heard what KSL reported. Get your facts before you are so quick to judge. People here in the community who know all 4 kids involved know this was an innocent prank with no malicious intent for which the boys will be justly punished for their stupidity. Shame on the rest of you for thinking the media was giving you the FACTS.

  • Annie B. October 9, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    To Facts: I know the BIL of the girl who was kidnapped. The *facts* I do know are that the girl sustained physical injuries from the event, and was emotionally traumatized. It doesn’t take malicious intent to cause severe and lasting trauma to another person. All it takes is lack of empathy and the ability to carry out a stupid “prank” with your friends. Another fact I do know is that a church leader in this girl’s community accused her of “tearing the community apart” simply because she and her family decided to press charges against the boys who have now pleaded guilty. I’m sure that made the girl feel her divine worth.

  • Murat October 9, 2012 at 1:56 pm

    Her divine worth in Mormonism is to be a baby maker, and cook a tasty casserole on occasion. Macaroni and cheese will suffice most days. And the dishes still need to be done.

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