Troubled teens need guidance
When Ashley Benton fatally stabbed Gabriel Granillo, she was only 16 years old; he was 15.
The paths of the two troubled teenagers crossed one fateful day in June 2006, when the Montrose-area gang Crazy Crew, which Benton desperately wanted to be a part of, fought with Granillo and his fellow MS-13 gang members.
Benton was charged with murder, and in 2007 stood trial as an adult. The trial resulted in a hung jury, because jury members could not decide if Granillo had come at Benton swinging a bat – which would have justified the self-defense claims of Benton’s attorneys’ – or if he had been attempting to flee the scene of the fight. ‘
Benton later pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and received five years of deferred adjudication. The plea deal meant that as long as Benton obeyed the provisions of her probation, the judge would dismiss all charges against her in no more than five years. ‘
Under Texas law, however, judges have the right to terminate probation early if they feel doing so is in the best interest of society and the defendant.
Last week, State Judge Kevin Fine did just that, opting to end Benton’s probation three years early, which prompted some to question if two years probation is adequate punishment for an individual who took a human life.
Though it may be difficult for some to accept, two years probation is adequate punishment in this case. ‘
Since the jury was unable to agree on whether or not Benton committed murder, the judge was right to order deferred adjudication for Benton, allowing her to either prove she could live as a law-abiding citizen, or prove that she belonged in prison.’
During her probation period, Benton completed 300 hours of community service and raised $4,000 to help pay for Granillo’s funeral costs. At least on paper, Benton appears to be turning over a new leaf.
As relevant as questioning Benton’s punishment may be, it is not the most important issue related to this tragic event.
The question that needs to be addressed is how did Ashley Benton and Gabriel Granillo end up in a situation where they were attacking each other with deadly weapons?
Granillo’s mother died when he was three, and when he was 14 his father was deported to El Salvador. This left Gabriel in the care of his older brother, also an MS-13 member. ‘
Three months before he was killed, Granillo had been arrested and sent to juvenile hall for participating in a carjacking. By that time, he was well established as an MS-13 member, having been involved in several shootouts with rival gangs.’
Although her mother and grandmother were raising her, Benton displayed clear signs that she needed help; she got into a fight with another girl, brought a knife to school and hung out with a gang.’
Anyone dissatisfied with the sentence Ashley Benton received should realize that probation for all but the most hardened criminals is only going to become more commonplace. Instead of complaining about the problem, be the solution. There are many troubled children out there; find one and help the kid out.’
Jared Luck is a communication senior and may be reached at [email protected]