Sylmar Boy Sent to CYA for Shooting : Courts: In rejecting psychotherapy, judge describes attack on Chatsworth student for his backpack as ‘cowardly.’


Rejecting defense pleas for psychotherapy rather than incarceration, a judge Monday sentenced a 15-year-old Sylmar boy to the California Youth Authority for the attempted murder of another teen-ager, who was shot in front of Chatsworth High School for refusing to give up his backpack.

In imposing sentence, San Fernando Valley Juvenile Court Judge Morton Rochman rejected arguments by Deputy Public Defender Albert M. Meister that the boy’s actions stemmed from depression and a substance abuse problem.

“CYA appears to be the best recommendation for rehabilitation,” Rochman said, accepting the recommendation of both the Probation Department and Deputy Dist. Atty. Bernadette de Barajas. “The minor must be held accountable for his actions.”

Rochman called the Dec. 15 shooting and robbing of Gabriel Gettleson, 17, as he waited outside the school for his mother to take him to his part-time job, a “cowardly, senseless and wanton attack.”


Minors are sentenced to the youth authority for an unspecified term. However, under state law, they cannot be held past their 25th birthday.

Prior to sentencing, psychologist Ronald Fairbanks testified that the defendant was suffering from depression and a substance abuse problem. He said the teen-ager has been taking Prozac, an anti-depressant drug, since February, two months after his arrest.

Fairbanks said that it would be difficult for the teen-ager to get treatment for either problem in a youth authority institution. Meister said that his client had also undergone a religious conversion while being held in juvenile hall and was ready to change his life.

Meister had recommended that the teen-ager be allowed to undergo a series of residential psychotherapy treatments until the court was satisfied that he no longer posed a threat to the community.


But de Barajas argued that the teen-ager was already on probation for a 1992 burglary and that he remains a danger to the community.

“This is a young man who has a violent history,” she said, noting that he had been expelled from school for fighting. “If he is truly committed to rehabilitating his life, he can do it in the California Youth Authority.”

During the trial, Los Angeles Police Detective Kenneth Crocker testified that the teen-ager confessed to shooting Gettleson and to robbing two other teen-agers, one in front of Polytechnic High School in Sun Valley and the other immediately before confronting Gettleson.

Crocker said that the defendant told police that after he and his friends could not find a rival “tagging crew,” they decided to start “taxing fools,” which the teen-ager said meant robbing people.


After taking a coat from a boy at Polytechnic High School, the defendant and his friends drove to Chatsworth High School. There, the defendant and another youth--who is awaiting trial as an adult for allegedly being an accomplice--grabbed a backpack from a boy sitting on a bench next to Gettleson.

The defendant and his companion then tried to take a backpack from Gettleson, who struggled, prosecutors said.

Gettleson testified that the defendant then pulled out a gun hidden in his sleeve. Gettleson--who said later he thought the gun was a toy--tried to slap it away and the defendant shot him three times.

Gettleson underwent two operations to remove three .22-caliber bullets from his chest, shoulder and hip.