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KEARNS TEEN FEELS STING OF TOUGH NEW LAW

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Victor Montoya graduated Wednesday to a justice system far nastier than any he's ever seen.

The 17-year-old Kearns boy became the first teenager in Salt Lake County bound over to adult court under Utah's serious youth offender law. Deputies delivered him hours later to the county jail, where he remains locked up with some of the state's most violent criminals.Montoya was charged with two felonies last month after he allegedly shot at a carload of teenagers. One of the .380 slugs slammed into the car, leaving a hole in the rear driver's side door. No one inside was injured.

As officers handcuffed him minutes later, Montoya obviously had no idea he was about to become one of the first kids to face the tough new law.

"It's my gun and I busted a cap on them," he said, according to testimony from Dale Bench, one of the arresting detectives. Bench said he then saw Montoya drop the silver and black handgun.

The case seems tailored for the new law - it didn't end in death but it involves one of the law's "10 deadly sins." And the evidence seems irrefutable.

Third District Juvenile Judge Sharon McCully had few choices but to bind over Montoya, who now faces trial in district court where age distinctions are mostly ignored.

Legislators hope the new code cracks down on the crushing tide of violent crime committed by kids. Ultimately, judges will determine that by their sentencing decisions.

Meantime, says Montoya's father, the boy has unfairly become "the test case" for the new law.

"I'm very upset. He got no break," said Manual Montoya following the hearing. He was especially worried by the idea of his fresh-faced son mixing with men accused of capital murder, violent sex offenses and child abuse.

"He's in (jail) with the perverts and drunks and murderers . . . just for making a stupid mistake," added defense attorney Don By-bee.

He said the boy has no gang affiliations and comes from a responsible family.

But prosecutors and police say Montoya's gang affiliation or lack thereof isn't the issue.

"He shot at a carload of people. I don't think it matters, especially to the people in the car, whether he's a gang member or not," said Charles Behrens, Salt Lake deputy district attorney.

Bench agrees the message from lawmakers is clear: If you can't handle the consequences, don't commit the crime.

"A lot of juvenile offenders will say they'll straighten up when they turn 18 because they know the penalties are stiffer. Now they know it won't be tolerated," he said. "It's hard to say for sure until more time passes, but I think (the new law) will be a big deterrent."

Montoya will be arraigned Aug. 21 before Judge Tyrone Medley. Bail was set at $4,000.