Teen charged as an adult in June rape of Hollywood woman

HOLLYWOOD — A Hollywood teenager is facing decades in prison now that prosecutors are charging him as an adult with the June rape and kidnapping of a woman walking to work.

Terry Berger-Smith, who just turned 15 on Aug. 1, was charged with four counts of sexual battery with great force and one count of kidnapping in connection with a felony.

Those charges, when levied against an adult, carry a maximum sentence of life in prison. Because Berger-Smith was 14 at the time he allegedly committed the offence, a life sentence is far less likely, and any severe sentence would be subject to appeal and review.

Prosecutors say treating Berger-Smith as an adult is their only reasonable option. At the defendant’s first appearance before Broward County Judge Phoebe Francois on Friday, Assistant State Attorney Eric Linder said Berger-Smith “stalked the victim and told him he wanted to add her to his collection.”

He also said Berger-Smith told her he had AIDS while he was forcing himself on her, though it’s not clear from court records whether he does.

“I am going to put my kids in you,” he said during the June 10 attack, according to a probable cause affidavit. He even livestreamed part of the attack so a friend of his could watch, prosecutors said.

Defense lawyer James Lewis said he was disappointed in the decision to charge his client as an adult.

“This case should play out in the juvenile system,” Lewis said after the hearing. “This kid is savable, and we’re just throwing him away.”

Prosecutors say the defendant has already divided his chance to be reformed by the juvenile justice system. In New York, when he was 12, he was accused of attempting to rape a woman at knifepoint, Linder said. “He ripped out the victim’s tooth and kept it as a trophy,” he said.

The judge ordered Berger-Smith held without bond, though the judge who is assigned to the case will be able to revisit the issue of whether to set bail.

Lewis said his client will contest the charges, but he continued to criticize how the case is being handled. He liked his client to Lionel Tate, a 12-year-old accused in 1999 of killing a playmate. Tate became the youngest defendant in the country sentenced to life in prison. Lewis was his lawyer.

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Tate was released after a public outcry and demands for juvenile justice reform, but within five years of his original sentence, he was in trouble with the law again, this time accused of the armed robbery of a pizza delivery man.

He ended up getting sentenced to 30 years for the murder and 10 years for the robbery. He’s due to be released in 2031, according to the Florida Department of Corrections.

“We’ve learned nothing,” Lewis said. “We’re going to defend my client against these charges, but it should be in juvenile court.”

If the case were to remain in juvenile court, Berger-Smith would face a maximum of three years in a juvenile facility and could remain under criminal justice supervision only for another three years.

Juvenile sanctions remain an option even if Berger-Smith were to be convicted as an adult.

His next court date has not been set.

Rafael Olmeda can be reached at rolmeda@sunsentinel.com or 954-356-4457. Follow him on Twitter @rolmeda.

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