July 20, 2012
L.A.-area teens ordered to complete community service for syrup swastika incident
On July 20, three Los Angeles-area teenagers were found guilty in an alternative juvenile court of vandalizing two homes in the San Fernando Valley with syrup swastikas, human feces and toilet paper. The girls — named only as Catharine W., Sarah M. and McKennah L. — have been ordered to complete community service at the Museum of Tolerance.
The three girls appeared at the Los Angeles Superior Court’s Stanley Mosk Courthouse in downtown L.A. They had been charged with vandalism, vandalism with a hate crime allegation, and terrorizing by use of symbol. Catharine and Sarah were found guilty of all three charges, while McKennah was found guilty only of vandalism.
The convictions stemmed from an April 3 incident in which the three girls, at the time all eighth-graders at Nobel Middle School in Northridge, together defaced the residence of a former friend from their school with toilet paper and maple syrup, and smeared their own feces on the homeowner’s vehicle. At the second home, Catharine allegedly wrote the word “Jew” and drew three swastikas on the front walkway of the home, which belongs to the son of a Holocaust survivor.
Catharine said of the swastikas: “I knew it was mean, but I didn’t know it meant death and hate.”
The terms of their probation require that all three girls complete eight hours of community service at The Museum of Tolerance within six months. Two of the girls must spend three days at Building Bridges Youth Human Relations Camp, a residential camp in the Big Bear area that features discussions with Holocaust survivors, and all three must participate in counseling along with their parents and abide by a 6 p.m.-9 a.m. curfew. Two of the girls also are required to write essays about what these experiences teach them.
The judges also forbade the girls from having any contact with their victims and their victims’ families and from having any contact with one another during the six-month period.
The girls were each tried separately, and they faced juries made up of high school teenagers as part of SHADES (Stopping Hate and Delinquency by Empowering Students), a modification of the early intervention and diversion program Teen Court. SHADES is a partnership between The Museum of Tolerance and the Los Angeles County Superior Court.
Catharine’s mother, Catharine Whelpley, responded to questions during her daughter’s trial. On the night of the incident, Whelpley drove the girls to the targeted homes.
On July 18, Whelpley pleaded no contest to one charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.