Two boys who fatally beat a Moreno Valley youth during a schoolyard bullying episode were on probation Friday, following a judge’s decision not to sentence either offender to juvenile detention.
The defendants, whose names have not been disclosed, each admitted an involuntary manslaughter charge in November for the 2019 killing of 13-year-old Diego Stolz.
Riverside County Superior Court Judge Roger Luebs on Thursday imposed probation terms of unspecified duration. The defendants, both 14, were potentially facing months in juvenile hall, but Luebs did not follow the Department of Probation’s recommendations.
Luebs acknowledged from the bench that “my decision will not make everyone happy,” but he emphasized that he did not believe the defendants wanted to kill Diego, according to The Press-Enterprise.
District Attorney’s Office spokesman John Hall declined to comment on the sentencing but told City News Service that the probation terms could last until the boys reach the age of 21, depending on what Luebs decides as he monitors their progress reports.
Luebs directed that each offender enroll in character development and anger management classes, as well as perform 150 hours community service, not play violent video games, avoid social media and write letters of apology to the Stolz family. They were additionally ordered to permanently steer clear of one another.
Luebs warned the pair that any probation violation could land them in deep trouble, possibly resulting in time behind bars.
The fatal assault occurred in September 2019 at Landmark Middle School in the Moreno Valley Unified School District.
Diego had been targeted by the same boys throughout the 2018-19 academic year, and when classes resumed in August 2019, they resumed their verbal and physical abuse, according to attorneys for the Stolz family.
They said that despite multiple complaints to school officials, little or no punitive action was taken against the bullies.
On Sept. 16, 2019, the two offenders corralled Diego in front of a building during lunch recess. Cellphone video that was widely circulated via social media showed the attack unfold.
The video reveals one boy standing in front of Diego’s face, while the victim stands limply, then backing up and punching him in the mouth. The second assailant then blindsides Diego with another punch, causing him to fall and strike his head on a concrete pillar.
He suffered major trauma and was pronounced brain dead and taken off life support a week later.
Last year, Diego’s aunt and uncle, Felipe and Juana Salcedo, who were the victim’s guardians, filed a lawsuit against the school district seeking up to $100 million in compensatory and punitive damages, as well as policy changes. The suit is being heard in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
The MVUSD announced a series of changes following Diego’s death. An anti-bullying reporting program was implemented, promising immediate action when there’s notification of any kind of hostility or physical aggression on any campus, as well as a “kindness campaign” to promote unity among students.
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