Archive for Friday, March 2, 2001

Plea agreement working in alleged school plot

Judge agrees to delay hearings while defense attorneys, prosecutors bargain

March 2, 2001


— Lawyers for one of three teen-agers accused in what authorities call a Columbine-style plot against their high school said they will try to work out an agreement to avoid a trial.

The comments came Thursday after Jason L. Moss, 17, and James R. Lopez, 16, had their hearings postponed until March 26. The hearings are on the state's motion to have them certified as adults rather than juveniles.

Jackson County District Judge Gary Nafziger agreed to the postponement and to have the teens' hearings handled separately.

Moss and Lopez were changed last month with conspiracy to commit aggravated arson.

The state has filed additional charges against both of them of solicitation to commit aggravated arson, two counts of criminal use of explosives, aggravated intimidation of a witness and criminal threat.

A third defendant, Richard B. Bradley Jr., 18, of Hoyt, faces the same charges. His preliminary hearing began Monday and will resume March 29.

Authorities accuse all three of being involved in a plot to attack Royal Valley High School in Hoyt, where they were students. A search of two homes on the day of their arrests uncovered such items as a semiautomatic rifle, bomb-making materials, a white supremacist drawing and a long black coat.

Lopez's lawyer, Dennis White of Holton, filed a motion Wednesday to give his client additional time for a psychological evaluation, and the judge approved it Thursday. White declined to comment beyond that in his motion.

Moss' lawyers, Donald and Jason Hoffman of Topeka, and prosecutors met for about an hour Thursday morning with the judge in his chambers. Donald Hoffman said afterward that the delay would give them time to see if a plea agreement could be worked out, subject to court approval.

"We want to explore the possibilities of resolving the case without a trial. That's what the time is being used for." he told reporters.

Jason Hoffman said they also needed to time to review the additional charges.

"Certainly the case has taken on a new air." he said. "A plea agreement is an option being considered."

Moss and Lopez remain at the Shawnee County Detention Center in Topeka. Bradley is with relatives in Topeka.

As for Moss, Jason Hoffman said, "He's keeping a stiff upper lip. He's doing the best he can. His family is concerned about him."

Asked what he wanted for his client, Jason Hoffman told reporters, "We would like to see him return to a normal teen-age life."

During Bradley's hearing Monday, Deputy Sheriff Matt Brewer recounted conversations he had with two other students a few days after Bradley's Feb. 2 arrest.

Brewer said one student told him Bradley had said "the Columbine shooting was cool" and that Bradley had purchased a long black coat to hide a weapon. The deputy said a second student told of the trio going to her house where the three fired guns and made and exploded small bombs.

After the three were arrested, there were comparisons to the April 1999, shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., where two students killed 13 people before killing themselves.

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