Prison Term Debated for Teen

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Some youth advocates are criticizing the possibility that a 16-year-old girl could get a 40-year sentence for smuggling cocaine.

The El Paso girl faces trial next month. She was arrested on a charge of trying to smuggle nearly 50 pounds of cocaine across the Mexican border into El Paso.

A grand jury last week granted El Paso County Attorney Jose Rodriguez's request that the teen be tried under the state's determinate sentencing statute.

The move gives a jury the flexibility to punish the teen past her 21st birthday. In this case, the teen faces up to 40 years.

Youth advocates condemn the decision, saying it erases the potential for rehabilitation.

But Rodriguez said he hopes the decision sends a message to other teens tempted by the money of drug cartels.

A spokesman for Rodriguez says prosecutors won't necessarily seek a 40-year sentence but wanted to give the jury flexibility.