Teen's conviction for part in bombing is upheld Judges reject boy's claim that he was not involved

March 29, 1998|By Marquita Smith | Marquita Smith,CAPITAL NEWS SERVICE

The Maryland Court of Special Appeals on Friday upheld the conviction of a Prince George's County teen who served as a lookout while his friend placed a bomb at Bowie High School in early 1997.

The court rejected arguments that the youth, identified only as James M., was not an active participant in the crime and that testimony from several classmates was not enough to convict him.

The incident was one in a rash of 130 bombs and bomb threats in Prince George's County during the 1996-1997 school year, said county schools spokeswoman Susan Hubbard.

Police were first called to Bowie for a bomb Jan. 21, 1997, when a device of aerosol cans, wires and batteries was found in a boys' bathroom. A police robot, brought in to destroy the device with a blast of water, set off a fireball that police said lasted 35 to 40 seconds.

On Feb. 7, a functioning bomb was found in a stairwell. Students told investigators that while many rumors were circulating in the school about the bombings, most of them centered on James and another student, identified in court documents only as William M.

Freshman Shawnell Coleman testified that the day before the second bomb was found, a group of students in her earth science class were talking about the first bomb. William told classmates that "we did it ask James," who Shawnell said then acknowledged taking part in the first bombing.

She said two other students then dared William to place another bomb.

James was convicted in juvenile court of committing delinquent acts of reckless endangerment, disturbing and preventing the orderly conduct of activities at Bowie High, and several counts of conspiracy.

A three-judge panel of the appeals court rejected James' claim that he was not involved, noting that he lingered in the hallway as the second bomb was placed and "did, in fact, serve as a lookout."

The ruling pleased county prosecutors.

"After this opinion, students should realize that when it comes to school bomb threats, if they know what's going on and participate in any way, they'll be viewed and treated as an active participant," said Paula Burr, a spokeswoman for Jack Johnson, Prince George's County state's attorney.

Pub Date: 3/29/98

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