Defense told to release boy’s records

OKEECHOBEE — Assistant state attorney Ashley Albright let it be known Thursday if the parents of John Benjamin Haygood refuse to sign him up for a diversion program, he will file additional charges against the 10 year old.

The prosecutor also asked Judge Jerald Bryant to require defense attorney Stephanie Langer to present documentation stating her client has been diagnosed as being autistic. At this point, the defense has only filed paperwork with the court stating Haygood has “mental disabilities.”

Haygood was arrested April 12 on a juvenile take and hold warrant charging him with battery on a school board employee — a third-degree felony. That charge stems from an incident in which the boy allegedly kicked and scratched a teacher.

Since the child’s arrest Judge Bryant ordered Haygood meet with the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) about entering into a program in which he would receive therapy and counseling. However, his mother, Louanne Haygood, declined to sign her child up for that program.

After the June 22 docket call, Mr. Albright said Mrs. Haygood and her son’s attorney will have until July 20 to decide if the boy will take advantage of the DJJ program. Judge Bryant ruled Thursday all parties will return to court on that date for a status review.

“I’m still leaving that open,” Mr. Albright told the judge.

A trial date has not been set.

However, if Haygood would take part in the DJJ program, he will not only avoid going to trial but would have the slate wiped clean and he would not have a criminal record.

But, pointed out the prosecutor, if the child is not entered into the DJJ program additional criminal charges will be filed against the boy. When contacted after court Thursday, Mr. Albright declined to say what those new charges would be.

As for the boy’s medical records, Ms. Langer argued that because he is a juvenile those records are confidential and cannot be divulged in open court by Mr. Albright. She also argued against the prosecutor’s statements in open court about there being no record of the boy’s alleged mental health issues.

“What do you want me to do, tell him not to do it again?” inquired Judge Bryant of the defense.

But the prosecutor also argued that, without those records: “How can I litigate my case?”

Judge Bryant then ruled if the defense has records indicating Haygood has been diagnosed as being autistic, the defense must make them available to the state.

Eric Kopp is a staff writer for the Okeechobee News

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