ROSLYN, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — The Long Island teenagers who snatched a custom-made, $17,000 wheelchair from a cerebral palsy victim appeared in court on Monday.
The victim continues to struggle to get around, and his family remains distraught over the incident.
“They broke in to my home and took my son’s wheelchair,” a tearful Carmela Pinello told CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan.
Inside a family court room the Roslyn teens tried to explain their actions to a judge. The pair stole Vinny Pinello’s motorized wheelchair and took it for a joyride through the streets of Roslyn before trashing it in some bushes.
“The juveniles are getting charged with felonies for what they did to my son,” Carmela said.
The teens claimed that they were playing a prank, but prosecutors disagreed. The wheelchair was found by a neighbor, broken and battered. The 14- and 15-year-old suspects reportedly took to Facebook to brag about their exploits.
The damage to the chair was so extensive that special parts had to be ordered. Five weeks later Vinny remains in his obsolete wheelchair, his independence stripped away.
“It’s very emotional for me, because the wheelchair is my legs,” he said.
The old manual wheelchair is too small for Vinny and leaves his legs and arms chafed and filled with rashes.
United Cerebral Palsy said it wants a serious message sent about victimizing the disabled.
“My life is very difficult without my chair,” Vinny said.
The teens sneaked through a fence and broke away plywood to gain access, police said. The Pinello’s home was damaged during Sandy and they were in the process of rebuilding it to make it more handicapped accessible.
“It hurt me and it hurt my mom,” Vinny said.
The teen suspects who were scheduled to attend Roslyn High, Vinny’s alma mater, in the fall will soon learn their fate. They could be sentenced to community service or spend time in a juvenile detention facility, prosecutors said.
Due to the age of the offenders their punishments will not be made public.
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