Federal prosecutors are recommending a probation sentence for a teen who sent death threats to students and staff at South Burlington High School, despite the teen’s violation of court-imposed rules that landed him in prison in November.
The proposed five-year probation sentence for Josiah Leach, 19, was agreed upon by lawyers in a plea agreement in October. It was initially unclear whether his violation a month later would cause lawyers to rethink the agreement.
A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.
In a memo filed earlier this week, federal prosecutors made clear they are sticking with the plea agreement. Leach’s lawyer Elizabeth Quinn said she also is asking the judge for a five-year probation sentence. She wrote in an email Wednesday that she filed her sentencing memo under seal last week because it “contained sensitive information.”
Leach has been jailed since November pending his sentencing after he admitted to being discharged from a court-ordered mental health program. Prosecutors had said Leach was kicked out of the program after setting off stink bombs three times, but Leach denied that was the reason for his dismissal.
Leach pleaded guilty in October to sending threats to kill or harm school community members in April 2017, including a “murder list” that named specific people. He admitted that he sent at least eight threats. The conduct prompted three days of lockdowns at South Burlington High School and one day of canceled classes.
“It is not overstatement to say that for a week in April 2017 Josiah Leach terrorized the South Burlington School District,” a sentencing memo filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Drescher states. He added that during the lockdowns, students needed to remain in their classrooms, unable even to go to the restroom.
“The experience was ‘humiliating and terrifying,'” Drescher wrote. “Leach, who was in such a room, was aware of the impact of his threats on the community.”
Drescher said the events consumed the South Burlington Police Department’s resources, and the school district estimated financial losses in excess of $300,000.
Leach also has admitted violating his conditions of release last spring by using social media to create a fake confession implicating another student in the South Burlington threats.
Drescher wrote in the memo that a five-year probation sentence would best address Leach’s age, upbringing and the nature of his crime. Drescher wrote that after several weeks of incarceration, Leach expressed regret over his actions and “expresses a desire to avoid a life of ‘going in and out of jail.'”
If the judge were to impose the proposed sentence, and Leach violates the terms of probation, he faces the possibility of being sent back to prison, Drescher said.
“It is hoped that Leach’s last three months in jail have impressed upon him — in a way that he has never before experienced — that his actions have consequences,” Drescher wrote.