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Posted November 26, 2013 | comments Leave a comment

School plot suspect faces trial as an adult

By Alex Bridges

WOODSTOCK - A Shenandoah County teen accused in a terrorist plot aimed at a local high school faces trial as an adult.

Aaron Trump, now 18, stands charged with three felonies, including attempting to commit an act of terrorism and possession of an explosive device, said Shenandoah County Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Louis Campola on Tuesday.

Authorities say the Edinburg teen plotted to commit an act of terrorism on Stonewall Jackson High School in Quicksburg. The defendant, then 17, was arrested in late September.

Trump appeared in Shenandoah County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court for a hearing on motions filed by Campola. Judge William H. Logan Jr. closed the hearing to the media and the public.

After the hearing, Logan reopened the courtroom and told members of the media he found probable cause to send the case to a grand jury. The grand jury next meets on Jan. 15 and the panel can consider indicting Trump on the charges. Logan also said after the hearing he granted a motion filed by Campola seeking to transfer the case to the circuit court for the defendant to face trial as an adult.

After the hearing and outside the courtroom, Campola identified Trump as the defendant who had recently turned 18. The defendant's identity up to that point had been concealed because of his age at the time of his arrest and when authorities allege he committed the offenses.

At the beginning of the hearing, Logan granted motions by the defendant's attorney, Brandon Keller, in which counsel asked the court to close proceedings to the public and the media. Statute allows a court's discretion to allow the public and media to witness certain hearings involving juveniles who are over a certain age and if the charges the defendants faced would be considered felonies in an adult case, Logan explained.

But given that the probable cause hearing would involve the divulging of information from a mental examination conducted of the defendant, Logan said he would grant the defense motion to close the proceedings to the media and the public.

The judge also granted Keller's motion to exclude witnesses from the courtroom during testimony - a common request of attorneys during hearings and trials. Campola told the judge he did not object to either of the defense motions.

The hearing that lasted almost three hours included testimony by law enforcement officers involved in the case. County Fire Marshal David Ferguson also testified at the hearing. Campola said he couldn't elaborate more on what transpired during the hearing, including any information given by expert witnesses from a mental, physical and social assessment conducted on the defendant.

Trump remains held at the Shenandoah County Jail, having recently transferred from the Northwestern Regional Juvenile Detention Center when he turned 18, Campola said.

Trump's previous defense attorney, James Allamong, had asked Logan at a hearing in October to grant his client's release on bond, citing the defendant's age. Logan denied the request. Circuit Judge Dennis L. Hupp upheld Logan's ruling on Allamong's appeal.

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

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