Judges encourage 3 teens who admitted to manslaughter to change, appreciate mercy
‘The Hones made the decision to extend you incredible mercy, and the other boys that were involved,’ Judge Scott Davis said. ‘I’ve never seen anything like it.’
Juvenile Court Judge Scott Davis told two teenagers on Monday that they were given a significant gift when the family of Gavin Hone chose to allow their cases to remain in the juvenile court system, and encouraged them to take advantage of that gift.
Davis said when he first encountered the case — involving five teens accused of causing the death of a 16-year-old during a robbery — he assumed the cases would be moved to adult court, leaving the teenagers to spend much of their adult lives in prison. He said he was "beyond surprised" to hear the cases would stay in juvenile court — which, he said, is not focused on retribution like adult court.
The most severe sentence Utah's juvenile courts can give is secure confinement at a juvenile facility, and although a judge can recommend it to last until the juvenile turns 25 — their release date is determined by youth parole authorities. All four teens were sentenced to this confinement sentence, avoiding prison time that would have come with adult charges.
"The Hones made the decision to extend you incredible mercy, and the other boys that were involved," Davis said. "I've never seen anything like it."
In back-to-back hearings, Davis ordered two of the five teenagers into secure confinement, after they pleaded guilty to manslaughter and aggravated robbery in Provo Juvenile Court. On Tuesday, a third teenager involved with the incident was ordered to secure confinement by Judge Douglas Nielsen in American Fork Juvenile Court.
On Aug. 1, five teens arranged to meet Gavin at the pavilion at the Lindon View Murdock Canal Trailhead around 2 a.m. The teens had planned to rob Gavin in order to pay a debt that another boy owed and planned to keep the marijuana cartridges, according to charging documents. When Gavin handed his money through a car window, one teenager pointed a gun at him, and others in the car began punching him.
Deputy county attorney Chris Yannelli said on Monday that Gavin was pushed from the car and it then ran over his leg. He said the driver was swerving and accelerated quickly. A friend of Gavin's, who was watching from another car, drove him to his parents' house while he was seizing and bleeding, the attorney said. He said medical examiners found Hone was unconscious from the time his head hit the pavement until he died.
"It sickens me that this is the result of a marijuana deal over $400-something bucks," Yannelli said.
In addition to secure confinement, Davis also ordered evaluations for both boys, a $10,000 restitution payment that will be given to Gavin's parents, as well as community service hours.
A ‘living nightmare’
Gavin's parents, uncles, sister, girlfriend and others spoke about losing him — four of them speaking three separate times in court on Monday and Tuesday.
It was not the first time his family spoke at a disposition hearing about his death, and it will not be the last. One of the five people charged was given a similar sentence by Davis on Nov. 28, 2022. And the fifth teen, who has not admitted to the charges, has a hearing scheduled for Jan. 25.
Gavin's mother, Kimberly Hone, said it doesn't get easier as she read her statement again and again. She spoke about how amazing her son was, and said they were looking forward to watching him grow and reaching his full potential. Now, their lives are forever altered. She said learning to live without their son and brother will be a lifelong challenge.
"All of what could have been for his future, for our future, is extremely painful to process," she said.
Kimberly Hone said she hopes her son is never forgotten, and no one forgets how he positively impacted their lives.
"This has been a living nightmare, mentally, emotionally, as parents, siblings, extended family, numerous close friends and the community," she said.
Other relatives talked about how eight years in juvenile detention is nowhere near the sentence their family has — of living without Gavin for the rest of their lives, which, they said, "isn't fair." Family talked about fear and struggling through the horrors of the scene of that night. They encouraged both boys to make changes in their lives.
Gavin's sister, Sera Hone, said the family can hope that they will heal, and be able to lead a happy life, but they can also hope for changes in these teens' lives, bringing a positive side to the tragedy.
"I need you to hold on to the grief, the pain, the anger maybe in yourself, that you feel today, the guilt and the shame, because when you hold onto that you're going to remember the damage that was caused," she said on Tuesday. "Please just do whatever you can to make your life good and grow and become a good man."
Davis talked to both boys about the words they heard, things that he said were painful but important for them to hear.
"We sometimes have no clue as to the suffering we cause other people. You do, you have a clue. … That is a gift," he said.
The teen who drove the car that fateful night was also who brought the gun and passed it to the back seat. He was 17 years old at the time, but turned 18 a few weeks later. Yannelli said during his sentencing that he swerved the car as he ran over Gavin, and he did not stop to check on him or call for aid.
This teen was arrested in Beaver, while driving to Arizona with a man who had three warrants out for his arrest. Yannelli said the teen had weed with him and was trying to run away instead of taking responsibility for his actions.
That teen's attorney, Neil Skousen, acknowledged that his client's actions were reckless, and the real punishment for the teenager is having to live with those actions for the rest of his life.
"His actions are inexcusable, he recognizes that," Skousen said.
The 18-year-old told the Hone family he was sorry, and that he hopes they are able to forgive him one day, and that they can be at peace.
"I'm so sorry for what I've done to your family, and to every family that I've affected with these actions. It was not my intention, at all, to see a friend go away in the way that happened. I know I can change, I'm taking steps towards it," he said.
Davis called the actions "beyond despicable" and said many people in the courtroom would say he deserves the worst possible consequences, although that is not what he got. The judge said he hopes the driver of that car is grateful, and takes advantage of the mercy from the family — that making a difference in his life is his own responsibility.
"There is no level of justice here, there just isn't," the judge said.
Davis recommended the man stay in juvenile detention for as long as possible, until he turns 25, and said he would be physically ill if the man were released within a period of months instead of years.
"You need time to understand and learn about what happened here. Your actions during the event were heinous, your actions after the event were heinous," Davis said.
The teen who held the gun
The second teenager to be sentenced on Monday was the one in the back seat of the car, and who held the gun to Gavin's face, though the gun was not fired. Yannelli talked about the call he had with Gavin's parents and said, his mom cried out "in a state of utter devastation" when she learned that her son had been held at gunpoint that night.
"This is an unimaginable case, unimaginable pain for the family," Yannelli said.
He said at least one witness also said this teenager, who was 17, assaulted Gavin while he was being held near the car.
Leah Aston, the teen's attorney, said her client wants to take responsibility. She said he told the truth about what happened immediately after his arrest, which, she said, was courageous, although it doesn't change the decisions he made.
The teen said he was deeply sorry, and told the family he hopes they can find peace.
"My actions were impulsive and reckless and have changed your life, your family's life, forever. … I want you to know that I'm committed to changing and making something of myself," he said.
Davis said he felt the teen's remorse was genuine.
"Everyone here today is interested in helping you succeed in your life, but the only person who can decide whether you succeed is you," he said.
Judge Douglas Nielsen gave a similar sentence to a 16-year-old involved in a related incident on Tuesday in American Fork. The teen was ordered to pay $10,000 to the Hone family, as well as complete service hours.
The teen's mother said police came to their house to ask questions and he denied everything, but the next day, he asked her to accompany him to the police station, where he told them he had lied. She said she was proud of her son, who had the courage to tell officers everything he knew and do what he could to right a bad situation.
"It mattered to him to the point where he didn't care about himself," she said. "He was willing to tell the truth, no matter what happened to him."
The teen had been sitting in the back seat during the situation that led to Hone's death, and because he knew Hone, he was trying to hide his face so Gavin would not see him during what was, at the time, a robbery, the teen's attorney told the court.
"I know (the boy) had no intention that Gavin be hurt that night," the attorney said. "That split-second decision has now changed six lives forever."
He said his client was a follower instead of a leader, and cared about what happened to the victim. He said the 16-year-old is not beyond help and knows right from wrong.
The teen also spoke, saying he can't imagine how Gavin's family feels.
"I just want to say I'm sorry for everything that happened; it doesn't fix it, at all," he said.
Nielsen said the biggest criticism of the juvenile justice court may be a lack of accountability. He wants the Hones to understand he issued the greatest degree of accountability possible.