- Associated Press - Thursday, June 28, 2018

ST. GEORGE, Utah (AP) - A judge has ordered a Utah teenager to stand trial on charges that he tried to blow up a homemade bomb in his backpack at a high school.

A hearing is scheduled July 5 to determine whether the 16-year-old, who police say made the bomb after looking at Islamic State propaganda, should be tried as an adult or in the juvenile justice system.

Fifth District Juvenile Judge Paul Dame ruled on Wednesday there’s enough evidence to bring his case to trial on felony charges of attempted murder and using a weapon of mass destruction. The judge also bound him over on two misdemeanors - graffiti and abuse of a flag.

In addition to the bomb incident at Pine View High School in southern Utah in March, the teen is charged with using spray paint to write “ISIS is comi—” on a school wall at another high school. Police say he cut up an American flag at that school, replacing it on a flag pole with a homemade ISIS flag.

A search of the teen’s laptop showed he had read web pages on how to build bombs and a fuse, FBI Special Agent Chris Andersen testified earlier. The boy also looked up variations of ISIS and videos calling for recruits to join the group, as well as diagrams of Hurricane High and other schools across the state.

Investigators said they found no known connections between the boy and the terror group.

The teen said in an interview with investigators shown in court last week that he expected the bomb at Pine View to go off and didn’t see anything bad about death.

No explosion resulted and no one was hurt March 5 after a backpack with the explosive device was found emitting smoke in a common area of Pine View High School.

Police said the backpack contained a metal soup can holding the separated shot and gunpowder from 24 shotgun shells. The powder was on the bottom of the container and the metal BBs were in a cup above. The can’s lid was taped back on, and a fuse ran through a hole in the bottom. The backpack also held three 17-ounce bottles of gasoline.

Tim Kockler, a psychologist who evaluated the teen after his arrest, testified last week that he had “experienced a lifetime history of bullying” and didn’t seem to grasp the severity of the situation, according to The Spectrum in St. George.

Kockler said the boy is high-functioning on the autism spectrum, a diagnosis that affects how he handles emotions, and has borderline intellectual functioning, which has an impact on how he relates to people.

Defense attorney Steven Harris told The Spectrum after the hearing Wednesday that members of the defense team are not using the boy’s diagnosis as an excuse. Rather, they’re trying to tell a story of a young man who had specific difficulties with his mental health that had previously gone undiagnosed.

“We need to put ourselves in his position, rather than as a gang member who spends his life committing crimes. That’s simply not the case here,” Harris said.

“Did he make an error in judgment, make the wrong choice and cause a lot of people to fear and panic? That’s what the state alleges,” he said. “Might there be some explanation for that? We think there is, and not to justify his actions, but to explain it.”


Information from: The Spectrum, http://www.thespectrum.com

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