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BH teenager to be tried as adult for sexual assault

ST. JOSEPH, Mich. - Matthew Griffis, 16, has admitted to sexually assaulting a mail carrier. The prosecutor’s office explained on Friday how it’s determined when a juvenile should go to adult court.

“These are clearly serious offenses,” said Judge Mabel Mayfield, inside the Berrien County Juvenile Court on Friday afternoon.

She reiterated this before waiving Griffis to adult court for felony kidnapping and criminal sexual conduct charges.

“Serious community offense that occurred in broad daylight,” she said.

Griffis has admitted to grabbing a postal worker in late March outside his Benton Harbor home, tackling her to the ground, and sexually assaulting her.

He had a criminal record before this arrest, which prompted his attorney and the prosecution to recommend he be tried as an adult.

The argument made in court is that the adult system would give Griffis access to more treatment.

To find out how that decision is made, ABC57’s Taylor Popielarz stopped by the Berrien County Prosecutor’s Office on Friday.

The team agreed to discuss how it all works, but they asked to do it off-camera because they did not want to discuss the specifics of Griffis’ case.

They said six factors are considered when determining whether or not a juvenile should be tried as an adult.

1)      The seriousness of the offense in question

2)      The juvenile’s prior record (criminal, academic, and disciplinary)

3)      Culpability – or how responsible the juvenile is for the offense

4)      What treatment programs the juvenile has already gone through

5)      How effective staying in the juvenile justice system could be

6)      What sentencing options remain

The prosecutor’s office said the first two are the main focus.

Potential treatment options in juvenile court include residential programs both in and out of state.

They have various levels of monitoring, supervision, and programming incorporated in them.

The prosecutor’s office said there’s “no magic pill” for handling juvenile sexual offenders because each case is different.

Adult court has a series of post-incarceration programs that the prosecutor’s office described as “pretty intense.”

They range from group therapy to one-on-one therapy, and more.

Griffis’ new bond is set at $125,000.

If he’s convicted in adult court, he could spend the rest of his life behind bars.

He’ll turn 17 later this year, which is the age that a person is considered an adult for criminal purposes in Michigan.

The prosecutor’s office said most juveniles waived to adult court in Berrien County are near the age of 17.

They also said they use the ability to request a waiver like this “sparingly.”

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