LAPEER — A 16-year-old Mayfield Township teen pleaded guilty Thursday to two counts of making a false terrorist threat and using a computer to commit a crime — the second of three teens accused of plotting a Columbine-style in Lapeer to take a deal.
Four other charges, including conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, and conspiracy to commit terrorism, were dropped per terms of the plea agreement that will be taken under advisement by Lapeer County Circuit Court Judge Nick Holowka.
The Mayfield Township teen — not being identified by The County Press — could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison. He is set to be sentenced Jan. 29.
He was one of a trio who were each individually charged as adults and with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit terrorism and two counts of using a computer to commit a crime.
The other defendants involved are from Metamora and Deerfield townships. As previously reported, the 15-yearold Metamora teen pled guilty to making a false terrorist threat and using a computer to commit a crime. He also will be sentenced Jan. 29.
Lapeer County Prosecuting Attorney Mike Sharkey said Thursday he expects a trial date for the 15-yearold Deerfield teen to be set after Jan. 1.
“Under extreme duress my client and his family felt it was in the best interest to negotiate and accept a plea in this matter,” said Bernard Jocuns, attorney for the Mayfield teen. “Unfortunately, not everyone is as confident in our justice system as I.”
During Thursday’s hearing, Lapeer County Chief Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Larry Kozma asked the teen, among other things, if he unlawfully conspired “to kill other people.”
“Yes,” the teen said.
“And that was to shoot people at school, correct?” Kozma asked to which the teen once again responded with a “yes.”
Kozma then asked the teen if he “unlawfully conspired” to “kill other people at school in order to get the school to change their way of handling bullying in the school system.” The Mayfield teen said “yes.”
Kozma also confirmed with the teen that threats had been communicated through a computer.
Sharkey said threats or false reports of terrorism are defined as 20-year felonies “and provide that a person must simply threaten an act of terrorism and communicate that threat to another.”
As he said after the Metamora teen pled guilty, Sharkey once again reiterated per state statute, “it is not a defense … that the defendant did not have the intent or capability of carrying out the threat of terrorism.”
Sharkey said he wasn’t “willing to ‘roll the dice’ and risk the safety of the students and staff in our schools.”
The Mayfield teen has agreed that he “shall not ever attend any Lapeer County public school as a student and he will not contest, oppose or appeal any finding as to his permanent expulsion from the Lapeer Community School District.”
Sharkey said it was important to note the plea agreement is not what he called a ‘sentence bargain’ of probation: “prison, county jail, juvenile detention, tether, and any subsequent term of an intensely supervised probation, is left entirely up to the discretion of the sentencing judge to fashion an appropriate sentence based upon the severity of the charges and the acts.”
“As prosecutor, I am not advocating for probation of what the public may perceive as a ‘slap on the wrist,’” Sharkey said.
Sharkey said the Mayfield teen will be sentenced under the Holmes Youthful Training Act, which provides that after an extensive period of time (no less than five years), “it will be up to the court to determine whether he has ‘earned’ the right to have these 20-year felony convictions removed from his record.”
Any such removal would depend on the Mayfield teen fully complying with all terms of his sentence and that he “has otherwise exhibited exemplary behavior,” according to Sharkey.
Jocuns said with regard to his client accepting a deal, “The gravity of the situation (charges and potential) appears to be a huge factor in unique cases like the defendants in Zemmer.”
During a motion hearing on Aug. 28, Jocuns argued, among other things, that his client engaged in nothing more than “political speech.”
The hearing was held with regard to motions filed by each attorney involved to quash bind over of the case to circuit court from district court.
“In a conspiracy, you have to do more than just talk,” Jocuns said in court, comparing some of the evidence presented to the movie “National Lampoon’s Animal House” in which characters are identified as “dead” at the end.
“There was nothing that was imminent, or immediate,” Jocuns said, adding that three key “complaining witnesses” did not testify at the May preliminary exam.
Lapeer County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney David Campbell refuted the argument about protected speech.
“None of the defendants are being punished for speech, but rather for the agreement they made to murder kids, students, and staff at the school,” Campbell said.
At the conclusion of the Aug. 28 hearing, Lapeer County Circuit Court Judge Nick Holowka denied the motions to quash bind over of each case from district court.
As recent as two weeks ago, Jocuns said “we have several legal issues and evidentiary hearings that need to be addressed.”
Among them were pending motions related to the validity of statements his client allegedly made to police during an in-home interview that took place at around 11:30 p.m. on Feb. 20 and the next morning at the Lapeer County Sheriff’s Dept.
Prosecutors relied heavily on the statements in making their case.
During Thursday’s hearing, Jocuns confirmed for the record, and with the Mayfield teen and his parents, that those motions would no longer be pursued.