WGRZ.com is reporting that a prank has gone horribly wrong for 18-year-old Tyell Morton. The high school senior, who reportedly has never been in trouble before, was arrested last week after school surveillance cameras captured a picture of a man dressed in a hooded sweatshirt and wearing latex gloves, concealing a package and leaving without it.
Believing that it contained explosives, officials evacuated the school and the Indiana State Police bomb squad was called in to dispose of the package. It turns out that the package, which was placed in the girls’ bathroom, contained a blow-up doll. Police say that Morton admitted putting it there as a prank.
He’s charged with felony criminal mischief, a hoax that the teen’s family says doesn’t rise to the level of criminal charges. School officials say that the prank cost them over $8,000, and prosecutors like Rush County’s Phil Caviness don’t see the humor: “In this post-Columbine world, that’s what you get when these kinds of things happen.”
Jailed and facing up to eight years in prison if convicted, Morton will also miss his high school graduation and isn’t allowed on school property.
Morton’s supporters highlight the recent light sentence that wealthy playboy Ryan LeVin received after admitting to killing two British businessmen when he ran over them in his 2009 Porsche. He was sentenced to two years of house arrest, which he will serve at one of his parents’ two luxury seaside condos in Florida. LeVin will be able to use the gym in the building and go to church.
While 35-year-old LeVin gets off for committing a horrible act, teens like Morton are charged with felonies and face major jail time. All of this over a prank gone wrong? The continuous need to criminalize young people in general, and black teens in particular, is outrageous. Clearly, Morton didn’t think it through, as young people tend not to do, but no one was harmed.
We can see Morton having to pay back some or all of the money spent to dispatch the police or bomb squad, but facing eight years in prison is pretty harsh. Yes, some black boys are knuckleheads and even criminals, but not in this instance.
The lesson that continues to be played out in cases like this is if you are a young, black male, you have to walk the straight and narrow. There is literally no room for error because you will pay the most severe penalty possible. Unfortunately, that is the way it is, has always been and will continue to be.