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Colfax I-80 rock-throwing teen’s Christmas wish not granted by judge

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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There will be no Christmas Day out of jail for one of three former Colfax High School students convicted of assault charges stemming from an Interstate 80 overpass rock-throwing incident. Judge Colleen Nichols denied a request Thursday from 16-year-old Sam Quinlan to be allowed a pass to visit with his ailing uncle on Saturday. Deputy District Attorney Michael Paschon had argued against the Dec. 25 release, citing the example it would set not only for other county Juvenile Detention Center inmates incarcerated for assault but also to a general jail population numbering nearly 500. “This would be sending the wrong message to the community and next year you could get 600 motions asking for the same thing because they’ve been good,” Paschon said. Nichols quickly dispelled any question that she would grant the request for a temporary release on Dec. 25. But she did allow Quinlan a temporary discharge from the North Auburn center the next day, citing the teen’s narrow window of opportunity to visit with an uncle visiting California from Delaware who is terminally ill. Nichols said that the request is being treated like any other, noting that the court does accommodate temporary discharges for medical reasons or to attend funerals. Nichols also granted a request in early October for Quinlan to attend an aunt’s funeral and family gathering afterward. The judge said she wasn’t willing to allow Quinlan to leave the North Auburn facility on Christmas Day but was comfortable with a six-hour discharge Sunday. “This is not because it’s Christmas,” Nichols said. “If this was October, I would grant the same pass. It happens to be Christmas and that the family is here. But I’m not willing to grant a pass on Christmas Day.” In requesting the pass, Quinlan’s attorney Jess Bedore recounted how Quinlan, Hunter Perez, 16, and Sean Steele, 17, had made a huger error of judgment July 26 after a night of drinking. The three threw rocks and a barricade over an overpass onto vehicles. Sacramento resident Jose Palomera suffered serious facial injuries after being struck by one of the rocks. Bedore said Quinlan had met with Palomera before he was sentenced and his client received forgiveness. Paschon said Palomera told him that while Quinlan was forgiven, he wanted the three punished severely for their actions due to the nature of the offense. The three are serving 10 months in the juvenile detention center after lodging “no contest” pleas Oct. 14 to charges of assault with a deadly weapon, assault by means of force and conspiracy to commit a crime.