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Judge denies bond to teen accused in school plot

By Alex Bridges

WOODSTOCK -- A 17-year-old Edinburg boy remains jailed on charges related to plotting terrorism against Stonewall Jackson High School in Quicksburg.

At a hearing Thursday in Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, Judge William H. Logan Jr. denied a motion by defense attorney James H. Allamong seeking the teen's release on bond while he awaits trial. Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Louis Campola appeared for the prosecution.

The teen remains held at the Northwestern Regional Juvenile Detention Center in Frederick County.

Logan ordered local media to wait outside the courtroom until after he held the hearing, after which the judge advised that he had denied the motion for bond. The media and the public typically are barred from being present in a courtroom during proceedings involve juveniles.

"His name is not to be printed in the paper and if you do there'll be consequences," Logan said. "I think you have a right to know when the next hearing is. I think you have a right to know whether he's out on bond."

The judge granted a request for "certain evaluations" of the defendant and set the next hearing in the case for Nov. 26.

After the hearing outside of the courtroom, Allamong said he has filed an appeal of the judge's ruling to the circuit court. The court will hear the appeal Wednesday, Allamong said.

"I was asking to get him out any way I could," Allamong said. "Again, I think that based on his mental disability, his diagnosis that he's not a threat to the community, he's not a threat to other persons and I was hopeful that court would issue a bond on that basis."

Allamong said he just recently received information known as discovery evidence, so he could not comment on the specific accusations against his client.

A motion filed by the Shenandoah County commonwealth's attorney seeking to try the juvenile as an adult was not before the judge at Thursday's hearing, Logan said.

He said he had not decided yet whether the court would treat the juvenile defendant as an adult.

Allamong said he objected to the commonwealth's motion.

"I objected to it because I think they ought to treat him as a child," Allamong said.

The teen was diagnosed as autistic before the Sept. 6 incident, Allamong said. The teen also was diagnosed through an individualized education program that serves students with special needs, he added.

"Therefore, he shouldn't be treated as an adult. He ought to be treated as a child, where there's hopefully better opportunities to meet his needs if he's found guilty, and that's a big if," Allamong said.

The teen began evaluation and counseling at the Virginia Treatment Center for Children in Richmond prior to his arrest, Allamong said, noting that the teen had been referred there and was actively seeking treatment for his illness at the time of his arrest.

Allamong filed a motion with the court seeking a mental examination of his client. As part of any request to try a juvenile defendant as an adult, Allamong explained that the court must first order mental, physical and social background checks on a child.

The court could try the teen as an adult but still sentence him as a juvenile. Under such adjudication the court could order the defendant to remain in the custody of Department of Juvenile Justice Services until he turns 21. A conviction and sentencing as an adult could result in prison or jail time.

Information provided by Allamong indicates that the commonwealth has charged his client with conspiring to commit an act of terrorism, threatening to bomb or damage a building and manufacturing or possessing a fire bomb, explosive materials or devices.

Making an explosive device is a Class 5 felony, according to state code. Threatening to bomb a building also is a Class 5 felony if the defendant is at least 15 years old. Conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism is either a Class 3 or Class 4 felony depending on the maximum prison term of the base offense, according to state code.

A Class 3 felony conviction can result in a prison term of five to 20 years; two to 10 years for a Class 4 and one to 10 years, or up to 12 months in jail, for a Class 5.

Shenandoah County Sheriff's Office deputies arrested the teen on Sept. 6 after uncovering what they say was a plot to commit an act of terrorism at the Stonewall Jackson High School in spring 2014.

The Virginia State Police bomb squad and Frederick County Sheriff's Office Explosive Detection Dog Team searched locations in Maurertown and Edinburg in this case.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com

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