'Lenient' Prince George's County judge taken off youth cases

As leaders try to get a handle on crime in Prince George’s County, a judge is being reassigned following complaints he has been too lenient on youth offenders.

Sources explained to FOX 5 that Judge Peter Killough was not banned but essentially removed from being the main person to handle juvenile cases.

A court order issued on Thursday by Prince George’s County Chief and Administrative Judge Sheila Tillerson Adams shows Judge Killough has been replaced with Judge Michael Pearson as the Juvenile Coordinating Judge.

It was explained that Judge Killough is still able to serve the family division. However, with so many judges already working in family or juvenile, it was unlikely he would be called as back-up.

One of the most vocal critics of Judge Killough is the mother of a 13-year-old murdered last year.

"I am glad that he’s taken off because these juveniles do need to be held accountable," said Ja’Ka McKnight, the mother of 13-year-old King Douglas. "On the other end, I’m kind of sad - or kind of disappointed –  because I wish it would’ve been done before King’s case."

McKnight reached out to FOX 5’s Lindsay Watts after learning Judge Killough had been removed.

"I just couldn’t believe that a child who admitted to killing another human being was let off and the judge literally gave him a smack on the wrist," she said, speaking of last month's sentencing.

FOX 5’s cameras were there in August when Ja’Ka Douglas and her family left Prince George’s County Circuit Court furious with Judge Killough for sentencing the teen responsible for King’s death to home monitoring.

The teen – who was just 12 years old at the time –  shot and killed King by the Capitol Heights Dave and Busters in 2021. A county prosecutor and the county’s Department of Juvenile Services had both sought and recommended the teen be held in a secured youth facility.

The change to the judiciary also comes after County Executive Angela Alsobrooks shined a light on juvenile crime at a Monday news conference. She announced the enforcement of a youth curfew saying in part, "We have an accountability problem in our county…"

Among other matters, the county executive brought attention to repeat juvenile offenders and how they’re handled in court once arrested.

The judiciary is its own entity. The county executive and county council do not have oversight.

In a statement to FOX 5, Prince George’s County State's Attorney Aisha Braveboy’s Office wrote: "The State’s Attorney’s Office has and will always respect any decision or order of the court. We will continue to focus on the priorities of our office which include public safety, integrity and accountability while pursing justice in a fair and transparent manner.  As such, we look forward to working with Judge Michael Pearson as the new juvenile coordinating judge for the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County."

The other important change for parents is the curfew that came out of Alsobrooks’ Monday news conference. Enforcement begins on Friday, Sept. 9.

"With the curfew, I appreciate them taking the necessary steps, but again, it starts at home and with the parents," McKnight said."If these parents are not holding these kids in and these kids are reckless and out of control, curfew to them don’t matter. It don't. But the consequences does."

Residents react to Prince George's County youth curfew: 'Why did we wait so late?'

McKnight tells FOX 5 she is now looking into whether she can seek a retrial given Judge Killough’s removal from juvenile cases.

FOX 5 was not able to reach Judge Killough for comment. 

The County Executive’s Office tells FOX 5 that Alsobrooks did specifically express her concerns with Judge Killough's handling of juvenile cases.

Check out a copy of the court order reassigning Judge Killough below: