Tiernan to be released into care of former teacher

When Lance Tiernan walks out of the Butler County Jail on Saturday he will go to live with one of his former Mason High School teachers.

Tiernan, who turned 18 in May, was found not guilty of murder but guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the beating death of 16-year-old Anthony Parker last December at the One Way Farm group home in Fairfield Twp. He was tried as an adult on a mandatory bindover from the juvenile court on the murder charge. Because he was found guilty on a non-mandatory bindover charge, the case was returned to the juvenile venue.

Judge Patricia Oney sentenced Tiernan in adult court to 54 more days in the Butler County Jail and five years probation on Aug. 20. He has been in the adult jail since March when the grand jury indicted him. Oney stayed her sentence and sent the case back Judge Ron Craft in juvenile court. His hearing was originally set for Sept. 28, but an amenability assessment — to see if he is amenable to juvenile sanctions and treatment — wasn’t ordered until Sept. 17, according to Juvenile Court Administrator Rob Clevenger. The assessment takes a month to complete.

Tiernan’s attorney Charlie M. Rittgers said Tiernan’s case would have automatically stayed in the juvenile court, had the prosecutors not filed an objection, which triggered the amenability assessment and hearing. Clevenger said they received the objection on Sept. 17. Jim Monk, chief assistant prosecutor for the juvenile division said he could not comment on the delayed objection because the case is pending.

The new amenability hearing date is Oct. 22, but his 54 days, which started after the sentence was imposed in adult court, are up on Oct. 13.

Oney held a hearing Monday to clarify that Tiernan is to be released this weekend and she also wanted to make sure he has somewhere to stay. Rittgers said Tiernan’s study skills teacher Jessica Krohn, who gave a video deposition at trial, and her husband have agreed to take Tiernan in.

“She testified he is one of her favorite students ever and she’s stepped up to the plate,” he said.

The whole situation with Tiernan has been confusing because of the provisions under House Bill 86 that took effect a year ago. The law calls for the reverse bindover, but no one here has dealt with the situation before.

Clerk of Courts Mary Swain said her office sent the juvenile court the judgement entry — binding the case back to Craft — on Aug. 23. However, she said they have never received an order from the court to actually transfer the case.

Meanwhile, another Tiernan hearing will be held in Craft’s court on Rittgers’ motion to have his client moved to the juvenile detention center. A new law says juveniles under the age of 21 must be housed in juvenile detention facilities, unless a judge deems them dangerous. So Tiernan could be transferred, according to Erin Davies, a public policy attorney with the Children’s Law Center.

Davies said most juveniles in Tiernan’s position, who are nearing the end of their sentence in adult court, just waive the amenability assessment.

“Most kids would rather serve out their time in adult court and just get it over with, without taking into account the effects of an adult court conviction,” she said. “So this case is kind of unique.”

Rittgers said waiving the juvenile court process would mean Tiernan would have an adult record.

“In Lance’s case we would like the case adjudicated in juvenile court so that he keeps a clean adult criminal record,” he said. “For obvious reasons we think this is the best option for the long term because a clean adult criminal record will help Lance with things like jobs and higher education.”

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