Logan Hetherington was sentenced as a ‘youthful offender.’ What’s next?
The family of Layla Aiken said justice had been served on Tuesday. Now, people are wondering what lies ahead for the man who took a plea deal for hitting the 8-year-old girl with his truck in March 2019.
Attorney Lance Dunford said Logan Hetherington, 20, qualifies as a youthful offender for three reasons.
“One, he was under 21 years of age at the time of the plea being entered today,” Dunford said. “He had never been sentenced as a youthful offender before and of course, the offense is a first-degree felony, so not a life or capital offense.”
That means his sentence cannot exceed six years but can be a combination of incarceration, probation, and community control, which is also known as house arrest. Judge Robert Branning sentenced Hetherington to two years of each, plus community service.
As a youthful offender, Hetherington will go to what is called “youth bootcamp,” which can involve manual labor, physical training, personal development and educational courses. As of June 2018, there were just under 700 court-ordered youthful offenders in Florida while there are over 96,000 inmates across all correctional facilities.
However, Dunford said these bootcamps can be wrought with violence and gang activity, according to his clients who have experienced it firsthand.
“To say that he’s getting an extended break or an exorbitant break by going to a youth camp versus general population, I don’t know that practically, boots on the ground, that’s the reality of the situation,” Dunford said.
Leaving the scene of an accident involving a death usually comes with a four-year mandatory sentence. Had Hetherington gone to trial and lost, Dunford said he could have faced “30 years in prison.”
“My honest assessment of the situation is that I’m happy to see that this young man got the benefit of a youthful offender statute,” Dunford said. “Cases like this [are] why we have the youthful offender statute in place.”
Ultimately, Judge Branning emphasized the deciding reason Hetherington is not facing decades behind bars: family of the little girl he is now guilty of killing.
“In large measure, because of the statements given by the mother today and the family’s willingness to show, in this court’s opinion, grace — at a time when it is almost unthinkable to do so — you are hereby adjudicated guilty,” Judge Branning said in court Tuesday. “Your sentence will be that of a youthful offender.”