A judge on Thursday sentenced a 13-year-old boy, convicted of killing his neo-Nazi father, to a state youth correctional facility, making the legal finding that he would benefit from the commitment.
"It's a horrific outcome," said the boy's attorney Punam Grewal, who had argue he should instead by placed in a private therapeutic facility in the state of Utah. She and trial attorney Matt Hardy indicated intent to appeal the ruling.
Joseph Hall was sentenced to 40 years, but as a juvenile offender he must be released when he turns 23, or possibly sooner if a parole hearing finds he is rehabilitated. He could be eligible for a parole hearing in as early as five years.
He was convicted of second degree murder in the shooting death of his father, regional neo-Nazi leader Jeff Hall, in the early morning ours of May 1, 2011. Hall was sleeping on a couch after an argument with his companion. Krista McCary. Joseph Hall was 10 years old.
“The court finds he is a minor with exceptional needs,” said Riverside Judge Jean Leonard, whose ruling included directives for the Department of Juvenile Justice to provide counseling and other measures.
In an unusual request, the prosecutor, Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Mike Soccio, requested to be able to stay in contact with Joseph while he is kept in custody and Hall's attorney did not object.
Soccio, who has expressed concern for the boy's well-being and rehabilitation, talked to Joseph after the hearing.
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Joseph, in a white dress shirt and vest, hair slicked down, tilted his head down during the ruling.
His paternal grandmother Joann Becker was in court and afterwards visited with him. Tuesday she told NBC4 that Joseph is a "good kid. But he does have some issues. And they have to adddressed, so he doesn't hurt anybody else--or himself."
The boy's parents had parted when he was only a year old. He remained with his mother Letcia Neal several years before custody was awarded to Jeff Hall. There was evidence the boy had been exposed to violence and abuse from an early age, and his behavioral and aggression issues were becoming apparent by pre-school.
In the public eye, the case had become associated to a large extent with the father's activism in the National Socialist Movement Party. After Thursday's ruling, in response to a reporter's question, Soccio said he did not believe Hall's politics were a direct motivating factor for the son. Instead, Soccio thinks the troubled boy may have been reacting to statements his father made to his stepmother during the argument just hours before the shooting. There was testimony that Hall threatened to leave McCary and set the house afire. In the boy's state of mind, Soccio said, the 10-year-old may have seen shooting his father as a way to prevent another family break-up.
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