Minor in larceny?

Twenty Division I schools are trying to recruit a star high school football player who is also an armed robber.

It seems that 17-year-old Pat Lazear has been rather naughty:

[Police] arrested Lazear for armed robbery and conspiracy to commit armed robbery &#8212 charges that each carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. The charges stemmed from an incident March 30 when, police said, Lazear met three friends &#8212 Justin Schweiger, Tommy Ashley and Robert Warren &#8212 with plans to rob the Smoothie King in downtown Bethesda where classmate Alex Krouskas worked.

According to charging documents, Lazear provided a gun &#8212 his attorney claims it was a replica not capable of firing &#8212 and dropped Warren off at the smoothie shop. Warren allegedly showed the gun and left the store with $463. According to testimony and police statements, the Whitman classmates then switched into a different car, divided the money and met Krouskas at a pizzeria later that night. Lazear refuses to talk specifically about the charges until his trial.

Note that even his lawyer isn’t denying his participation in the robbery; the only question (which may not be legally relevant) is whether the gun he provided for his accomplices was real. Since Lazear had a previous conviction for using a stolen credit card to buy a $130 pair of running shoes, he’s being tried as an adult.

Now all of this is as familiar as it is depressing, except for one detail: Lazear is a star high-school football player. He was forced to switch schools, but his new teammates just elected him team captain. He will play wearing an electronic position monitoring device as an ankle bracelet.

What’s more, 20 Division I colleges, including Ohio State and Alabama are still recruiting him. (Notre Dame and NC State, to their credit, have backed off. Maybe they’re looking to strengthen their criminal justice programs.

I have grave doubts about the wisdom of trying juveniles as adults for anything but egregious violence. And I’m always delighted to see educational institutions prepared to give a break to ex-offenders who are trying to turn their lives around.

But treating Lazear as a football player first and a criminal second seems a tad … disproportionate, doesn’t it? Especially since he doesn’t seem to have any particular remorse about participating in an armed robbery?

As a Robert Heinlein character says, “juvenile delinquent” is a contradiction in terms. To be delinquent is to fail to carry out a duty, and a juvenile is someone too young to know what a duty is. But for every juvenile miscreant, there are several adults who have been delinquent in raising him. The football coach, athletic director, and principal of Wheaton High School, and the football coaches and AD’s of twenty colleges and universities, are working together to tell Pat Lazear that his talent on the field means that the rules don’t apply to him.

Now that’s delinquency.

Footnote I don’t know what Lazear’s lawyer and parents are thinking, but if I were the judge I’d be more inclined to send him to prison if the alternative is sending him to Ohio State on a football scholarship. Somebody has to tell this kid there’s some stuff he can’t get away with, or he’ll wind up a career criminal, of either the Willy Horton variety or the Duke Cunningham variety.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

8 thoughts on “Minor in larceny?”

  1. Or a Maurice Clarett-type. A bit closer analogy. And he went to school in Ohio too. Wonder if Ken Blackwell will have any comment about this. Ohioans may love Jesus, but I wonder if he thinks they love football more.
    Do they?

  2. Hmm, let's see. The choice is between financial gain and fame (or possible notoriety) on the one hand, and integrity, intellectual consistency, and commitment to the greater good on the other. Which way will our "collegiate" athletic leaders and their "academic" sponsors turn?
    This will be a short-lived reality show, I predict.

  3. This is his second felony. He was just coming off probation for credit card fraud. The judge who decided to have him tried as an adult was quoted in the WaPo, and he is pissed.

  4. Is there a list of these schools so I can add them to the list of schools I will not be considering for my daughter?

  5. I like how the coaches hope he can "take care of the problem" and that ESPN will be providing live coverage of — I can't tell — his decision on schools or the jury's verdict.
    But take heart, this is the jurisdiction that made Mike Tyson do time after he exercised his athletic talents on the driver of a car that was involved in a minor accident with his vehicle. MT's defense team realized it had no defense so they bought off the other driver, who testified against sending MT to jail. The prosecutor and the judge would have none of it. So there's hope that Lazear will spend some time having to think about what he did in some other kind of uniform.

  6. Mark: when the kid was arrested there was mention that the clerk was in on the robbery, that the gun was there to 'impress' other customers to keep them from interfering. If so, this is a bit less severe than a straightforward armed robbery. I second your point about how to treat him.

  7. This young man sets a shining example to the youth who follow in his footsteps. I hope he makes national news and becomes a movie star, in the OJ tradition.

  8. The boy never got out of the car. The kid that did the robbery is a troubled youth. Pat wasn't convicted of a previous felony.
    Don't believe everything you read

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