Teenage Girl Charged With Arson and Damage Of Utah Churches

An 18 year old teenage girl has been charged with arson for arson and damage to multiple churches in Orem, Utah.

Arson and damage to churches

Photo by: Joe Lodge

Two churches in Orem, Utah were damaged by an individual who broke doors and wrote satanic messages in permanent marker. Additionally, someone had poured gasoline in or near both of the churches yet only one had been set on fire. Police were able to quickly extinguish the small fires found within the single church. While attempting to locate the individual responsible, police located 18 year old Jillian Robinson of Lindon, Utah who was in possession of a permanent marker, burglary tools, gasoline, and a lighter. Police determined Robinson to be the one responsible after her possessions matched those possibly used to damage and commit arson to the churches. While originally denying her involvement, Robinson later admitted to police that she was angry and did not target the church specifically.

Arson and other charges

Robinson was booked into the Utah County jail on charges of arson, burglary, possessing burglary tools as well as criminal mischief. Utah Code 76-6-102 states “A person is guilty of arson if, under the circumstances not amounting to aggravated arson, the person by means of fire or explosives unlawfully and intentionally damages . . . the property of another.” Arson is a second degree felony if the damages of the event exceeds $5,000 in value. The damage caused by Robinson is said to be estimated around $600,000. Beyond the second degree arson charge, the 18 year old Robinson is also facing a third degree felony burglary charge as well as additional charges for possessing the burglary tools and criminal mischief.

Dealing with police

Photo by: Scott Davidson

Robinson has already admitted to her crimes and will need a good criminal defense lawyer as she prepares to have her case heard before a judge. Teens and young adults such as Robinson should be educated of their options prior to and following an arrest to avoid unnecessarily incriminating themselves. A couple things to keep in mind:

  • The released information about Robinson’s case does not include whether she consented to a search of her backpack containing the incriminating items or if officers claimed there was reasonable suspicion to suspect her of a crime. Teens should know when they are dealing with police that they have the right to state their lack of consent to a search without getting in the way of police who will search anyway.
  • Records indicated that Robinson agreed to make an incriminating statement to police about her involvement in the arson. It doesn’t state whether or not she agreed to the statement on her own or while accompanied by an attorney. Many young adults and especially teens do not realize that they have the right to request an attorney before they talk to police. Being represented by an attorney will help teens ensure they are being treated fairly and not admitting to more than they should.

Parents of teens and young adults are encouraged to educate their youth on their rights when dealing with police. Being prepared with this knowledge could help teens if they ever should face charges.

New York ACLU Trains Kids on Handling Police Encounters

New York ACLU trains students on police encounters
Photo: Ildar Sagdejev/Wikimedia Commons

In the wake of events in Ferguson, MO, a New York high school principal invited the New York Civil Liberties Union in to educate students on how to handle police encounters. While many students seemed glad to receive the information, some law enforcement officials felt like it undermined their authority.

Police Encounters are History in the Making

According to an article in the New York Post, Principal Mark Federman of East Side Community High School invited the NYCLU for two reasons: concern for the youth in his city and relevance to the school’s history curriculum.

“We’re not going to candy-coat things,” Federman said. “We have a problem in our city that’s affecting young men of color and all of our students.”

Some students reported personal police encounters that verified this statement and also the reason for inviting the training. One student said that he was stopped by police and questioned after leaving a party. The police accused the student of lying about what he was doing. “I was panicking,” the student said, “because I knew they could do anything to me and I can’t help myself.”

This is just the type of panic response that could lead to another Ferguson-like incident and was an issue addressed by the NYCLU. Among other issues related to police encounters, they discussed the NYPD stop-and-frisk program and advised students on their Fourth Amendment rights regarding unreasonable search and seizure. Students were told to be polite and keep their hands out of their pockets. While they were also told that they didn’t have to show identification or consent to searches, ultimately they were instructed not to resist and that they had the legal right to file a complaint later.

In regards to Principal Federman’s statement that the training on police encounters also addressed history classes’ curriculum, some law enforcement experts felt like the NYCLU was actually giving out criminal-defense advice. Eugene O’Donnell, a former police officer and professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice stated, “It’s unlikely that a high school student would come away with any other conclusion than the police are a fearful group to be avoided at all costs.”

Federman said that wasn’t the intent of the police encounter training. “It’s not about police being bad,” he said. “This isn’t anti-police as much as it’s pro-young people … It’s about what to do when kids are put in a position where they feel powerless and uncomfortable.”