Attorney: Nothing to suggest student accused in Hilliard Davidson threat had weapons

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Family members of the teen charged with conspiring to commit a mass shooting indicate they are overwhelmed but refer questions to the teen's attorney.

"Obviously the family is in a spiral right now. They're trying to figure out what to do, what happens next. There's stuff coming at them from a lot of different directions," said Attorney Stephen Palmer.

Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien announced a conspiracy to commit murder charge against 16-year-old Hilliard Davidson student John Staley III, Tuesday.

The Hilliard Davidson student is accused of planning to recruit other students to take part in a mass shooting at the school.

According to court documents, Staley had shared a map with two students on a school bus about his plans, and both students agreed to take part.

O’Brien said the diagram laid out the plan including listed weapons and the personnel number of people needed to carry it out - the plan needed 15 people.

When Palmer was asked if his client admitted intentions of taking action on plans to take the lives of classmates, Palmer said he could not comment. "I know what the allegations are and we are gathering as much information about the case as we can," Palmer said.

Last month, Hilliard Police announced that they had stopped a potential threat against the school, but did not release details at the time. Officials say a student at the school overheard the plot and reported to the school resource officer.

Students and parents described Staley as someone who kept to himself.

"As the juvenile court process goes forward, I think there will be some psychological work. I think we'll learn a lot more about that as the case progresses," Palmer said.

O'Brien confirmed Staley’s internet search history included information about mass school shootings, various guns and their cost.

Staley's attorney said he awaits discovery for more details. "There's nothing to suggest he actually had weapons, there's nothing to suggest he brought weapons to school and there's not going to be any evidence that suggests that," Palmer said.

Staley will return to court for a hearing that will decide whether he will be bound over to the adult court system.

"He's a young man. He's just beginning his life. I'd hate to see this in the adult court process for that reason," said Palmer.

The Juvenile Coalition responded to the new charges. They said cases like Staley's have shown a juvenile placed into adult jails rather than juvenile systems could be developed into a person more likely to follow a perilous path upon release.

"The juvenile justice system is designed specifically to work with young people – even high-risk youth – to rehabilitate them and help them get back on the right track. To do this, juvenile courts recognize the fundamental differences between youth and adults and provide accountability and programming to ensure better outcomes for youth and communities.

Under Ohio’s bindover laws, the next step is that the student will undergo an evaluation to determine if he is amenable – or able – to remain in the juvenile justice system. Juvenile court jurisdiction in Ohio goes up to age 21, giving the juvenile system six years to work with this young man. Juvenile courts handle very serious cases every day with positive outcomes. Research shows that youth transferred to the adult system are actually more likely to reoffend compared to youth who commit similar offenses, but who are kept in the juvenile system. Youth in adult jails and prisons are also more likely to commit suicide and be subject to physical and sexual abuse."

-Erin Davies

Executive Director, Juvenile Justice Coalition

Staley is being held in the juvenile facility, awaiting his next court date.

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