PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A youth empowerment advocate is vowing to fight back after he was arrested in Juvenile Court on Wednesday as he tried to support one of his teenage clients.
As a co-founder of the nonprofit Youth Empowerment and Advancement Hangout, or YEAHPhilly, which works with teens to help them navigate the juvenile justice system, James Aye regularly attends Juvenile Court proceedings with teenage clients. That’s what he was doing in support of an 18-year-old defendant, when hearing officer Caitlin Schuler decided she didn’t want him there.
While the defendant said he wanted Aye there, Schuler said she wasn’t comfortable with it, according to someone who was present. When Aye refused to leave, he was arrested and sheriffs took him away, said YEAHPhilly’s other co-founder Kendra Van de Water.
Aye is charged with obstruction of justice and three other charges.
“They held him overnight. And everyone believes this was purposely slow-walked so he would not be released on the same day,” Van de Water said.
“He’s going to fight this, and we’re also looking at filing a civil suit.”
Aye declined to speak about the experience. A spokesman for the First Judicial District did not respond to a request for comment.
City Council members Jaime Gauthier and Kendra Brooks and State Rep. Rick Krajewski denounced the arrest and praised YEAH in a joint statement, saying the nonprofit should not be “silenced or excluded during juvenile court proceedings.”
Van de Water says she believes Aye was targeted because YEAH has been lobbying for more openness in Juvenile Court, even mounting an ad campaign asking “Who’s watching the juvenile judges?”
Van de Water says the incident won’t stop them.
“To us, they’re trying to send a message, and we’re going to continue to fight every day,” Van de Water said: “We’re going to continue to try to fight for legislative changes, and we’re going to continue to expose the harmful things the courts do — because there needs to be accountability.”