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DA offers essay deal to 5 juveniles

Among 37 arrested at parade for Patriots

Hoping a tale of drugs and desperation in South Boston persuades them to improve their behavior, the Suffolk district attorney yesterday offered five juveniles arrested at the Patriots' parade an unusual deal: read Michael Patrick MacDonald's ''All Souls" and deliver a 2,500-word report on its meaning, and the charges will be dropped.

''I want them to know that their behavior -- the disrespect, the rowdiness, the foolishness -- leads to other problems in life," Daniel F. Conley said. ''When you read a book like 'All Souls,' you understand there are many choices in life, and poor choices can lead to a life of misery. They should appreciate the Patriots for their success, but they shouldn't act like fools when they come into the city."

Police charged the youths with disorderly conduct, but because they had no criminal records prosecutors figured a judge would agree to dispense with the charges.

Among the five, a 15-year-old Revere boy beaned others in the crowd with a can of ''silly string." Three other boys, from Chelsea, East Boston, and Woburn, threw snowballs and bottles.

Of 37 people arrested at the parade, prosecutors say 12 are juveniles, and most were taken into custody for disorderly conduct. Prosecutors are pressing charges against the seven others, either because of the severity of the crime or because they have criminal records.

The most serious charge was assault with a dangerous weapon, against a 16-year-old Milton boy who pulled a knife and threatened another boy during a dispute.

In all, police charged eight of the juveniles with disorderly conduct, three of them for a fight authorities believe was gang-related. The three were a 15-year-old boy whose hometown is unknown, a 16-year-old boy from Lynn, and a 14-year-old boy from Revere.

Police charged other juveniles with resisting arrest. They attend such high schools as East Boston High, Cambridge Ringe and Latin, Danvers High School, North Andover High, Woburn High, Chelsea High, and the Seacoast Academy in Revere.

Most of the 25 adults arrested during the parade were arraigned yesterday on charges that included indecent assault and battery, sexually groping others, trespassing, drug possession, and disturbing the peace. They either had their cases resolved, or authorities released them on personal recognizance with or without bail.

For the five juveniles without records, most of whom would have had their cases quickly dismissed in court, prosecutors said they must deliver their reports next month to Suffolk Juvenile Court Judge Terry Craven on lessons they learn from the gritty memoir, a 263-page account of one South Boston family in the 1970s as it dealt with poverty, drugs, crime, suicide, and survival in the Old Colony housing development.

In a phone interview, Craven called the punishment ''appropriate" and said it won't be the first time she has required juvenile defendants to read a book in lieu of another penalty.

''I think any time we can get youths to read, it's an enriching experience for everyone," she said. ''In this case, I think 'All Souls' is appropriate, because it's a compelling family story set in Boston. What they come away with will be individual to each of the adolescents that came before me. I'm looking for their interpretation."

The papers are due March 22, a week before their final appearance in court, she said.

As for prosecutors, they want to open the juveniles' eyes.

''The district attorney hopes that, if nothing else, this book makes them more aware of the lives of other people, some of whom fight the good fight every day against social and economic problems, and in some cases against their own demons," said David Procopio, a spokesman for the district attorney's office.

In addition to the book report, Procopio said, the five will have to attend two meetings with probation officers at the Edward Brooke Courthouse -- and stay out of trouble.

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