Two teens involved in Urbana High fight plead guilty to mob action

Two teens involved in Urbana High fight plead guilty to mob action

URBANA — Two students involved in a fight that forced Urbana High School to dismiss early last week have pleaded guilty to mob action.

Eight freshmen and sophomore boys were charged with mob action after the Feb. 4 morning brawl between two groups that resulted in the school locking down and dismissing early for the day and a teacher being sent to the hospital.

Urbana police continue to look for a ninth youth.

Two different judges ordered that the eight who were arrested, all ages 15 and 16, be kept in the Juvenile Detention Center until hearings set for this week.

On Wednesday, four of those boys appeared before Judge Heidi Ladd.

Two pleaded guilty to mob action and had their sentencing dates set for April 9 and April 18. The other two had their cases continued to March 15.

All four were released from detention but were ordered to have no contact with any of the others, to maintain an 8 p.m.-to-7 a.m. curfew, and to obey the rules set by their parents and guardians in their own homes.

The two who pleaded guilty admitted they were part of a fight between seven members of the "On My Brother" group and three members of an unnamed rival group.

Recapping the evidence for Ladd, State's Attorney Julia Rietz said there were a series of fights throughout the school that morning, but the main one took place in the hall outside the cafeteria and spilled into the cafeteria.

Much of what police learned when they got there about 11:40 a.m. came from school surveillance video and cellphone video taken by students watching the melee unfold.

Rietz said the confrontation that Monday was a continuation of a verbal argument that some of those boys had begun the Friday before.

A teacher who tried to break up a fight between two of the brawlers was knocked down and hit her head on a locker, causing her to lose consciousness. One of the boys then fell on her. Rietz said the youths had not intentionally struck the woman, who was taken to an area hospital, treated and released.

The boys face penalties ranging from probation to one to three years in juvenile prison for mob action.

Rietz said she was generally pleased with the detention center's reports on three of the boys, including one who she noted has a reading comprehension three grade levels above his age.

Ladd admonished the fourth boy, one of the two who pleaded guilty, that he seemed to be the only one "unable to let it go," referring to his ongoing bickering with some of the other fight participants while they've been locked up.

"You have to learn not to get drawn into all this stuff going on around you," the judge said.

That boy's court-appointed attorney, Ed Piraino, promised the judge that he would be working with the youth and his older sister, who acts as his guardian, to get him a job, to get him to give up cannabis, and to help him stay on track in school.

Rietz said she was not entirely certain what the school administration planned to do with the boys but said she'd been led to believe that they all faced a 10-day suspension to be served when they are released from detention.

As of Wednesday's hearings, the participants had missed almost eight days of classes.

Additional hearings are set for Thursday and Friday before Ladd and Judge Tom Difanis.

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