Charges reduced against teens accused in Kansas school plot

? A county prosecutor dropped felony charges Monday against five teens accused of plotting a shooting rampage at their southeast Kansas high school, instead charging them with one misdemeanor apiece.

The Riverton High School students had been arrested in April and charged with one felony count each of incitement to riot and making a criminal threat.

Kansas Atty. Gen. Phill Kline had also charged one of the youths – James Tillman, 17 – with felony solicitation to commit first-degree murder. But Kline’s office withdrew that charge last week and turned the entire case over to Cherokee County Atty. Michael Goodrich.

Goodrich amended the charges against all five Monday to one misdemeanor count of conspiracy to riot. According to court documents, the charge alleges the students discussed the logistics of committing a violent act at the school.

Telephone messages left for Goodrich by The Associated Press on Monday evening were not immediately returned. But he told The Joplin (Mo.) Globe he would not discuss his decision until after a Wednesday court hearing for the students.

The students were arrested April 20 – the seventh anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre in Colorado – after a message about an alleged plot for shootings at Riverton High School appeared on the Web site

Authorities said the discussion included the location of video cameras in the school and how to disable them, and the strength of the school’s windows.

Besides Tillman, the defendants are Caleb Byrd, 16, Robert Hunt, 17, Andrew Jaeger, 15, and Charles “Coy” New, 18.

Cherokee County Sheriff Steve Norman has said the teens planned to disable the school’s camera system before starting the attack. Sheriff’s deputies found guns, ammunition, knives and coded messages in the bedroom of one suspect.

Kline’s office took charge of the case initially at the request of Goodrich. But Goodrich is now handling the prosecutions because the attorney general’s office generally does not handle juvenile cases.

Goodrich said he completed reviewing the evidence and reports in the case on Saturday.

Tillman’s attorney, Sam Marsh, told The Associated Press on Monday that he would not comment about the case until after Wednesday’s hearing for the teens.

Attorney Doug Steele, who represents Hunt, told The Globe he was pleased the charges were reduced.

“I think the county attorney had done a very good job of reading everything and making the appropriate decision,” Steele said.

Messages left for other defense attorneys were not immediately returned Monday evening.