MANDAN, N.D. — A teen charged in what authorities called a riot at the Youth Correctional Center in Mandan in January 2018 was sentenced Monday, Sept. 9, in district court to more than three additional years behind bars.
Starson Buckles, 17, in June pleaded guilty to 13 charges, nine of them felonies, for his part in the incident. Several staff members were injured, including one who was punched, choked to near unconsciousness and handcuffed in a closet, authorities said.
Buckles, one of four teens involved in the incident, told South Central District Judge Bruce Romanick that he is trying to better himself, getting good grades, and taking part in therapy for anger management and substance abuse issues. He said he’s learned to handle himself better and wants to pursue a nursing career.
“I’m not the same person I was on Jan. 28, 2018,” he said.
Romanick said he understood Buckles has had a bad life but that he couldn’t let that influence his sentencing. Buckles' actions during the incident left some of the victims in fear for their life, the judge said.
“It was a serious event,” Romanick said. “It could have gone farther and been much more dire. It didn’t. That’s the good news, but the bad news is it all happened, and I can’t overlook that.”
Romanick said he didn’t want to place Buckles with adult prisoners but had no choice given Buckles was charged in adult court and turns 18 in December. The judge sentenced him to five years in prison with credit for 599 days served, and three years on probation upon his release. He encouraged Buckles to pursue his education and to stay out of trouble in an effort to move his parole dates up.
“You have a lot of life ahead of you,” he said. “You don’t want to keep living it in chains, behind bars, behind walls. It’s not worth it.”
Buckles said he was "truly and deeply sorry to those I’ve affected, and I hope I have a chance to make amends.”
Co-defendants Gavin Johnson and Julian Wolf were given similar sentences earlier this summer. One other teen charged in the incident has not been sentenced. Elijah Barse pleaded guilty in August. His sentencing date has not been set.