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Archive for Thursday, May 4, 2006

Teen faces another charge in school plot

May 4, 2006

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— A 16-year-old student at Riverton High School was charged Wednesday with solicitation to commit murder in the first degree in an alleged plot to carry out a shooting spree at his southeast Kansas high school.

The new charge filed against James Tillman is in addition to charges filed last week against him and four other youths for one count of incitement to riot and one count of making a criminal threat.

The teenagers were arrested April 20 - the seventh anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre in Colorado - after a message about an alleged plot to attack Riverton High School appeared on the Web site Myspace.com.

Judge Robert Fleming refused to set bond for Tillman, citing the affidavit he read on the latest charge. He said he did not want the reasons for the new charge to be made public, and prosecutors declined to comment after the hearing.

"It is frightening," Fleming said. "It suggested these kids were going to get together and shoot up half the school."

Fleming reduced the bond for Charles "Coy" New, 18, from $50,000 to a $25,000 surety bond plus a $25,000 signature bond with house arrest. The judge set similar bonds and conditions for Robert Hunt, 17, Caleb Byrd, 16, and Andrew Jaeger, 15.

"We believe there is a significant issue of public safety," said Assistant Atty. Gen. Stephen Maxwell.

Fleming reminded prosecutors they already have had two weeks to file additional charges against the boys if they had seen fit.

"I respect that you haven't overcharged," he said. "I have to set bond on what you charge, not what you may charge."

New is being tried as an adult. The state asked the judge Wednesday to also try the four juveniles as adults. Fleming set a May 16 hearing to hear that motion.

Chasinee Jaeger said that her son, Andrew, was "an All-American boy" who takes lifeguard classes and karate classes. On the day he was arrested, he was to have received a district award for an FFA project on growing melons.

She said police seized from her home two pocketknives and a plastic bag of .22-caliber bullets that her son had used when shooting with his father. With a search warrant seeking violent video games, police also seized "The Legend of Zelda," two "Spiderman" games, a computer printer and some driver disks.

"These people have so much power - and we are dinky little citizens," she said.

Chasinee Jaeger, who came to this country from Thailand in 1981, said the family feels helpless. She said her son cooperated with police in answering questions.

"It is unreal to us," she said of the charges.

Last year, Andrew Jaeger was assigned a project regarding school problems, and told to pick a subject for the report. He picked the Columbine school shooting, and concluded in the paper that those boys were intelligent and would have had a bright future if they had not done that, she said.

"He doesn't admire them," she said.

Robert Myers, the attorney representing New, said his client's family also is shocked by the charges.

"They are all traumatized," he said. "It is unbelievable at this point."

Their defense position is that the incident is not as serious as the state alleges.

Samuel Marsh, who represents Tillman, said the new charge against his client for solicitation of first-degree murder is a serious charge that is not being taken lightly.

"I think the truth will come out during these whole proceedings," Marsh said.

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