Christina, the young Polish gypsy, yesterday won a round in the bizarre legal battle over her age when the D.C. Court of Appeals ruled that criminal charges against her must be handled by the city's juvenile and to its adult court.
In a five-page opinion, the appeals court left the gypsy's age a mystery. The three-judge panel found only that the government failed to prove that Christina was 16 at the time of the burglary in which she is charged. If she had been 16, she could have been prosecuted as an adult.
Age is no small matter to Christina, which her father says is not her real name. If her case is resolved in the D.C. Superior Court's Family Division - which includes juvenile court - she faces less severe penalties than if she were tired in the adult Criminal Division.
The appeals court decision reversed a finding by Judge H. Carl Moultrie, who determined after a court hering last summer that Christina as at least 16 at the time of the offense in April, 1975. The gypsy, who relies on some immigration papers as proof her age, contends that she was 4.
After examining her teeth, a dentist testified for the government at the hearing that he thought Christina was between 17 and 20 years of age in May 1977. A radiologist, who examined her bone structure for the government, testified he thought that in June 1977 Christina was more than 18. Thus the gypsy as 16, the government argued.
A dentist and radiologist for the defense told Moultrie that in their opinion the gypsy was 17 when they examined her prior to the hearing. A gynecologist for the defense determined that Christina was a virgin and her father testified that by custom, gypsy women remain virgins until they are 18. Therefore, her attorney Harry T. Alexander argued, Christina as under 16 in April 1975.
Judge Frank Q. Nebeker did not address the virginity question in riting for the appeals court. As to the government's evidence on Christina's age, Nebeker said, it "tended to prove" that the gypsy turned 18 sometime before May or June 1977, but not that she was 18 on April 17, 1977 - which would have made her 16 at the time of the alleged offense, and thus subject to treatment as an adult.
Therefore, Nebeker said, since the government failed to prove Christina was 16 at that time, the case must be sent to the juvenile court.He noted however that the government still has the option of getting Christina's case transfered to adult court under applicable law, if it can be shown that she was 15 at the timeof the offense or that she is 8 now.