Teen sentenced to 4 years for planning mass shooting at Hilliard-Davidson HS


COLUMBUS, Ohio – Police say John Staley III had an advanced, detailed plot for a mass school shooting at Hilliard-Davidson High School.

Last month he was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder, and Thursday, he learned his punishment.

John Staley III has the face of a child. But prosecutors say he has the mind of a killer.

"This was a plot for a mass school shooting," said prosecutor Joe Gibson.

Police say Staley's school, Hilliard-Davidson, was the target.

And his plans were advanced, including diagrams of the building, online research, and efforts to recruit other students to help carry it out.

"He researched firearms," said Gibson. "When it became difficult to get firearms, he researched parts of firearms so that he could assemble them at the school."

They say records from his computer also showed racist, Nazi and neo-Nazi propaganda.

Hilliard Police arrested Staley in October 2016, based on a tip from another student.

He was originally charged in Juvenile Court. Though psychologists said that's where his case belonged, a judge ordered him prosecuted as an adult.

A teacher from the juvenile detention center said the charges don't match the teen she's come to know.

"What we see now is a different child," said Tonja Blackmon. "We see a great child, a gifted child, a creative child. We see that. And if you believe in rehabilitation, which I believe in, then this would be a child that has been rehabilitated."

She said multiple teachers were moved to write unsolicited letters on Staley's behalf. Staley's attorney urged the judge to consider probation.

"You want to make this kid a racist? Send him to prison. You want to make this kid a criminal? Send him to prison. You want to make this kid dangerous? Send him to prison," said Stephen Palmer.

His distraught parents seated behind him, Staley then spoke for himself.

"I am gravely sorry for my actions," he said. "I'm sorry to my friends, my family, and the people I affected with those actions. I never meant for this to go this far. I'm sorry I have to be in front of you today, Your Honor, please have mercy on me sir."

"It's not enough to say later that it was a joke," responded Judge David Cain. "I do think from everything I've read that there was very little chance, very little chance, that it would have actually occurred. But even a very slight chance is way too much."

Staley could have gotten between three and 11 years in prison.

Judge Cain said based on what he'd read about his attitude and intellect, his ruling was on the low end of that.

He sentenced Staley to four years in prison, with five years' probation after that.

Staley's family declined to comment.

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