Jerry Gale

PROVO — It's not an excuse, but perhaps years of being abused by two different parents serves as an explanation for a 17-year-old's criminal behavior.

Jerry Gale, 17, stood before Judge Steven Hansen Tuesday morning in 4th District Court, listening to his attorney plead his case at sentencing.

"There's no denial (this assault) happened, there's no denial he has a history," said his attorney, Keith Eddington. "We wanted the court to consider the circumstances."

"Mr. Gale is the victim of some substantial abuse of an extended period of time from his father," Eddington continued. "He was adopted after some ... abuse as a small child, then placed in the home of his adoptive parents and has been victimized throughout much of his life. He did begin acting out."

The most serious acting-out episode was Sept. 1, when Gale and a fellow student at Provo's Heritage School — a sub-acute psychiatric treatment facility for adolescents — went on the run from school counselors.

They stole a gun and when confronted by a counselor in the basement of an apartment complex, attacked the counselor and kept running.

Gale, who was 16 at the time, was originally charged in juvenile court, but then transferred to Provo's 4th District Court for adults with a charge of attempted murder.

That charge has since been amended through a plea deal down to aggravated assault. Gale also pleaded guilty to two counts of burglary and theft.

However, rather than sentence the teen Tuesday, Hansen and prosecutor Curtis Larson decided they wanted more information.

"We do believe that given his history, issues ... he is a good candidate for a diagnostic," Larson said. A diagnostic is a review done at the prison to learn more about an individual's history and behavior. Hansen set another sentencing date in 60 days.

"It is clearly justified under this set of circumstances," he said. "There's a lot going on here. (There are) serious issues with public safety as well as his youth. The path he's on, (there's) potential for violence in the future and (he) needs to be looked at very carefully."

Eddington maintains his client never pulled the trigger and disagreed with such characterization in the pre-sentence report.

"The only representation is the statement made by my client, who is given to overstatement," Eddington said.

He said Gale needs additional therapy and monitoring, not more jail time. He has already served more than 230 days in the Utah County Jail, most of which has been spent in solitary confinement because of his young age.

"I think that he needs, certainly, to pay for what's happened, but he desperately needs some counseling," Eddington said.

As part of the agreement with prosecutors, Gale would be on 48 months of supervised probation and be required to pay restitution on anything he stole. He is also required to get his GED.