COLUMBUS — Five teenagers were charged Monday with threatening to carry out a shooting spree at their southeast Kansas high school in an alleged plot that authorities say was foiled after details appeared online.
Five teenagers were charged Monday with threatening to carry out a shooting spree at their southeast Kansas high school in an alleged plot that authorities say was foiled after details appeared online.
Prosecutors charged Charles "Coy" New, 18, Robert Hunt, 17, Caleb Byrd and James Tillman, both 16, and Andrew Yaeger, 15, each with one count of incitement to riot and one count of making a criminal threat. All five appeared in court Monday, where Judge Robert Fleming set bond at $50,000 for New, who was charged as an adult. The four juveniles were being held until a May 3 status hearing.
New would be under house arrest if he were to post bond.
"These are serious allegations and they scared me as I read them," Fleming said.
However, Fleming said Assistant Attorney General Stephen Maxwell's request to set New's bond at $500,000 was excessive.
"At this point, the state is very concerned with public safety," Maxwell told the judge.
If convicted, the teens could face seven to 23 months in jail on the charge of incitement to riot and five to 17 months in jail on the charge of making a criminal threat. Each charge also carries a fine of up to $100,000.
Deputy Attorney General Eric Rucker said charges could change as the investigation continues. "It is a very fluid case," Rucker told reporters.
Samuel Marsh, a defense attorney for Tillman, praised the attorney general's office for "not overreacting to hysteria" by filing more severe charges. Marsh also said "the truth will come out" as the legal process runs its course.
The teenagers were arrested Thursday - the seventh anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre in Colorado - after a message about the alleged plot to attack Riverton High School appeared on the Web site Myspace.com. All five teens were held over the weekend.
Cherokee County Sheriff Steve Norman has said the teens planned to wear black trench coats and disable the school's camera system before starting the attack between noon and 1 p.m. Thursday. Sheriff's deputies found guns, ammunition, knives and coded messages in the bedroom of one suspect.
JoAnna Derfelt, an attorney for Yaeger, said the incident shows students have not gotten the message about the seriousness of the Columbine attack.
"You don't say bomb on an airplane. It's the same thing. You don't say Columbine in school," Derfelt said. "Columbine is not something to talk or joke about, and I think that message hasn't gotten to kids yet."
She also said her client has been portrayed inaccurately. She said Yaeger is a Boy Scout, a good student and is close to his family. "He is not a loner," she said.