‘Reasonable’ ruling for teen escapee helper

A teenage inmate convicted of helping accused murderer Josue Orozco escape from the San Mateo County juvenile facility in February will likely be free in four months after a judge refused to send him to state prison Wednesday.

Vanher Cho, 18, was sentenced to one year in county jail and five years of probation by San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Clifford Cretan. With credit for time served andgood behavior, he will likely be out in October, Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said.

Prosecutors, who had argued for the full two years in state prison allowed under the conditions of Cho’s April 9 plea bargain, said they accepted the judge’s decision.

“Judge Cretan’s ruling, while we disagree with it, is certainly a reasonable conclusion,” Wagstaffe said. “His viewpoint is that this is not a life he wants to throw away.”

The sentencing ends a twisting legal saga for the Burlingame teen accused of boosting accused killer and alleged Sureño gang member Orozco over a wall at the county’s Youth Service Center on Feb. 14.

On May 30, over prosecutors’ objections, Cretan granted a defense request to refer Cho to a mental health program in which he would receive treatment instead of prison time. However, the mental health court judge rejected Cho, saying his crime warranted incarceration.

Cho will receive mental health counseling as part of his probation, Wagstaffe said. He must also abstain from alcohol and drugs and is prohibited from owning weapons or gang-related items. Wagstaffe said Cho was not in a gang but associated with gang members.

Orozco is still at large. The escape prompted two investigations of the county probation department. In the interest of fairness, Alameda County conducted Cho’s probation report.

tbarak@sfexaminer.com

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