Judge denies release of 2 teens accused of bomb plot at Glen Burnie High School

Pair held at juvenile center to be tried by June 7

May 18, 1999|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Two Glen Burnie High School teen-agers accused of planning to make bombs lost their appeals yesterday to leave the juvenile jail where they have been held since their apprehension April 29.

As Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge Pamela L. North denied their requests, one of the boys covered his eyes with his right hand and cried. The two, and a third who has not contested his incarceration while awaiting trial, are being held at Waxter Children's Center in Laurel. They are 14 and 15. The Sun does not identify juveniles charged with crimes.

The three students were arrested, and their homes searched, after several classmates told school administrators that the students had boasted about making bombs, warned of an attack on the school and threatened them in a hallway.

Two students were charged with conspiracy and possession of bomb components, the third with making a threat.

The defense argued that two pastors, two teachers and other students had vouched for one or both of two of the accused teens. Prosecutors said the youths had pulled instructions on how to make a bomb from the Internet and that searches of their homes turned up items that could be used to make an explosive.

"Why would a person have directions on how to make a bomb?" North asked.

"It's not a crime to have the documents," defense attorney Patrick M. Smith replied.

After listening to Assistant State's Attorney Michael Bergeson list things seized from the teen-agers' homes -- a hollowed grenade, BB pellets and model-rocket components -- North speculated that the parents were unaware that their teen-agers had the items or thought it was fine to make a bomb.

"Either situation is not a good one," she said, denying Smith's appeal to send the youths home. Juvenile Master James D. McCarthy had denied the request May 5.

After Bergeson said the trial, scheduled May 27, had to be postponed because a fire marshal could not appear in court that day, North ordered prosecutors to bring the case to trial by June 7, nearly a month earlier than is required by law. When Bergeson balked at North's trial date, the judge said she imposed the deadline because the two teen-agers were being detained.

In arguing for the release, Smith called the prosecution's case "spaghetti sauce without tomatoes."

For one thing, he said, the third student, not his clients, is accused of making a threat. In addition, Smith said, investigators did not find in the boys' homes all the essential ingredients named in the how-to guide for bomb-making. One compound seized from a chemistry set is not the one in the manual, though it is a related one. And, he said, what investigators suspect is gunpowder -- there are no test results yet -- is probably chalk.

"They couldn't have made a bomb with what his house and his house had," Smith said, gesturing at his clients.

The arrests came at a time when deadly violence at schools was on everyone's mind: Funerals for victims of the school shootings in Littleton, Colo., were being held. In the massacre's aftermath, word of students threatening classmates and plotting to detonate bombs flashed through the sprawling Glen Burnie campus. Last year, there were 119 bomb threats at Anne Arundel schools.

A misspelled flier found in the backpack of one of the students arrested April 29 said that an "avalanche is comming" and threatened to blow up Glen Burnie High School May 10. The flier was among many warnings around the campus, from graffiti to signs.

Pub Date: 5/18/99

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