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Originally published Saturday, January 31, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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Rap sheet puts 16-year-old defendant on fast track to adulthood

This week, King County prosecutors argued — and a judge agreed — that Victor Renard Gorman Jr., 16, a purported member of the Deuce Eights, a Central Area gang, left childhood behind a long time ago. His assault case will be tried in adult court, and if convicted of first-degree assault, he could face up to 20 years in prison.

Seattle Times staff reporter

His court record reveals a tragic childhood: an absent father, a drug-addicted mother and an abusive stepfather.

He started smoking pot at 11 and dealing crack at 13, according to the papers. He was expelled from three schools and failed to complete ninth grade because of truancy and frequent criminal behavior that landed him in detention for more than 100 days.

By the time he turned 15, Victor Renard Gorman Jr., a purported member of the Deuce Eights, a Central Area gang, had racked up seven convictions as a juvenile, five of them felonies.

In August, less than a month after his release from the maximum-security Green Hill School in Chehalis, Gorman allegedly fired three shots — without provocation and in broad daylight — at a 20-year-old man. A bullet grazed the victim's head, and Gorman was arrested.

Inside his padlocked bedroom, detectives found a rifle and a bulletproof vest.

This week, King County prosecutors argued — and a judge agreed — that Gorman left childhood behind a long time ago. His case will be tried in adult court, and if convicted of first-degree assault, the now-16-year-old could face up to 20 years in prison.

"The Gorman case is an example of someone under 18 committing a very adult offense," said King County Deputy Prosecutor Ian Goodhew. "It's part of the spate we've seen of juveniles committing very adult crimes."

Defense attorney Randall Hall hotly contested moving Gorman's case to adult court, arguing that, if convicted, the teen's chances of rehabilitation would be significantly limited in the adult system. He also said the boy's maturity level, and the extent of his involvement in the Deuce Eights, are in dispute.

Hall is evaluating whether to appeal the judge's ruling now or wait until Gorman's case is resolved in adult court.

Despite the fact that Gorman's father became more involved in his son's life when he was 12 or 13, Hall said the case was "one of the harder ones."

"Just the tough life this kid had," he explained. "It's sad to think about what could happen to him in the adult system."

Attempts to reach Gorman's parents were unsuccessful. But court records show that Gorman's father, Victor Gorman Sr., testified on his son's behalf during this week's hearing.

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"Everyone's shooting"

Seattle's crime rate plummeted to a 40-year low in 2007, a trend that preliminary data suggests continued through 2008. Nonetheless, Seattle's mayor and police chief have highlighted in recent months the disturbing uptick in youth violence that claimed the lives of at least six teenagers last year.

Since summer 2006, Seattle gang-unit detectives have noticed escalating tensions between rival Central Area gangs and between gangs from the Central Area and Rainier Valley. While police are reluctant to publicly label any of the shootings as gang-related, gang-unit detectives have been involved in most — if not all — of those investigations.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Vince Lombardi, an anti-gang coordinator, has said the gun violence is also frustrating to federal investigators.

"Kids in gangs is not a new thing," Lombardi said during an interview in November. "Juveniles committing crime is not a new thing. What surprises me is how heavily armed they are in Seattle and how quick they are to go for a gun."

Gorman, in an interview with a Seattle detective, said he kept a bulletproof vest and a rifle under his bed "to protect my house" because rivals know where he lives.

"Everyone's shooting. ... Ain't nobody fighting no more," Gorman told the detective.

The shooting

It was a hot August day, and Cordaral White was filling a wading pool for his young nieces and nephews in the front yard of a relative's home near the corner of 26th Avenue and East Alder Street. He saw Gorman and two or three other youths walk by and head down an alley, court documents say.

Minutes later, as White was getting into his truck, Gorman allegedly doubled back and fired a revolver three times from close range, grazing White's head and striking his vehicle. None of the children was hit.

Though no words were exchanged, White later told police that Gorman, "a known Deuce Eight gang member," did not like him, his neighborhood or the Low Profile gang members he sometimes associated with, the documents say. White's brother, 24-year-old Tyree Lee, a member of the Low Profile gang, was fatally shot at the same corner in April 2007. No arrests have been made in connection with Lee's homicide.

From his hospital bed at Harborview Medical Center, White identified Gorman as the gunman from a photo montage. Another witness who heard the shots and saw the shooter running from the scene gave police a description that matched the one White gave to police, court documents say.

After charging Gorman with first-degree assault in juvenile court, prosecutors requested a decline hearing — a statutory requirement anytime the state moves to have a juvenile tried as an adult.

Hall, the defense attorney, objected to the move, pointing out that Gorman's felony convictions were for property crimes and unlawful possession of a firearm. He requested that a forensic psychologist evaluate his client, court records show.

One expert, two views

Defense expert Dr. Delton Young concluded "that it is entirely possible that imprisonment in the adult system may very well foster recidivism rather than prevent it," Hall wrote in a court filing opposing Gorman's transfer to adult court. Gorman's judgment will improve as he matures, and violent behavior as a juvenile doesn't mean he'll be a violent adult, he wrote.

But Kristin Relyea, the deputy prosecutor who handled Gorman's case in juvenile court, also cited Young's report in requesting that Gorman be tried as an adult.

Young described Gorman as "emotionally flat" and "characterized by arrogance and an inflated sense of self-worth," court documents say. He conceded that Gorman poses "a high risk of future violent behavior."

Young also determined: "He may be indifferent to the welfare of others. He may be prone to argument and abrasive tendencies. He is likely to be seen as impulsive and exploitive. There is likely to be a deficient social conscience. It appears important to this adolescent to maintain an image of strength and fearlessness. He wants to appear hard-boiled and daring."

From abused to abuser?

Before White's shooting, Gorman, who was convicted of unlawful possession of a firearm in February 2008, spent less than a month at the medium-security Echo Glen Children's Center in Snoqualmie before he was transferred to the Green Hill School for aggressive and assaultive behavior, Relyea wrote in her court filing. At Green Hill, Gorman "spent hundreds of hours confined to his dorm room" for fighting, assaulting peers and staff.

While acknowledging Gorman's tragic childhood, Relyea wrote that his criminal history indicates Gorman "has gone from being the abused to the abuser." He has twice assaulted his mother and threatened to kill his older sister with a samurai sword, according to her filing.

"Nothing in the Respondent's [Gorman's] criminal behavior is softened by youth, immaturity or unsophistication," Relyea wrote. "Rather, the Respondent's hardened and deliberate crimes have all the markings of adulthood."

Gorman is scheduled to be arraigned Feb. 11 at the Regional Justice Center in Kent.

Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or sgreen@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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