A 17-year-old boy accused of plotting a mass shooting at Hilliard Davidson High School will be prosecuted as an adult, a juvenile court judge ruled Sept. 6.
John L. Staley III, who had been released home on an electronic monitoring device, was immediately taken into custody. Franklin County juvenile court Judge Terri Jamison ordered him held in the juvenile detention center and set bail at $250,000.
Stephen Palmer, an attorney representing Staley, said Sept. 19 that he is waiting for the Franklin County Common Pleas Court to assign a case number so the adjudication process can begin.
"We will enter a not-guilty plea," he said.
Palmer said psychologists and other experts concluded Staley should not be tried as adult.
"But (only) the judge thought otherwise," he said.
Palmer said he expected the case to be assigned soon and it was the trial judge's prerogative how to proceed, but scheduling a pretrial hearing would be a common first step.
Staley, a northwest Columbus resident, was 16 when he was arrested in October 2016 after a fellow student contacted a resource officer to say he heard Staley discussing the plot on a school bus. He was charged with a delinquency count of conspiracy to commit murder.
Jamison reviewed evidence in the case, including evaluations by two psychologists, in determining that Staley was not an appropriate candidate for treatment in the juvenile system.
"The court finds there is not sufficient time to rehabilitate Mr. Staley and provide a reasonable assurance of public safety," she said.
Both psychologists, including one who testified last week at a hearing in front of the judge, concluded that Staley could be treated in the juvenile system.
Jamison said case law allows judges to disagree with expert opinions.
She took exception to a conclusion by the psychologists and the probation department that there were no victims of Staley's actions.
"The victims in this case may not have suffered physical harm, but they indeed suffered psychological harm," she said of the school's students and staff members.
Prosecutors filed a motion at the time of the arrest asking for the case to be transferred to adult court. Evidence showed that Staley had created diagrams of the school showing where the shooting would take place, attempted to recruit other students to help and collected gas masks and a tactical vest.
Investigators found that he had used his computer, cellphone and Davidson-issued iPad to research school shootings and how to obtain weapons.
Searches of those devices also uncovered "extremely disturbing ... photos of Nazi and neo-Nazi imagery" and "images glorifying school shootings and making light of the Holocaust," Assistant Prosecutor Joseph Gibson said.
The psychologists determined that Staley came from a good family, isn't mentally ill or intellectually disabled and is more mature than others his age.
"It was his racist ideology, his neo-Nazi ideology and his seeming obsession with those things and violence that drove this, not being immature," Gibson argued at last week's hearing. "He can't be rehabilitated. The juvenile system is not going to teach him not to be a neo-Nazi, it's not going to teach him not to be a racist, it's not going to teach him not to seek out guns."
Palmer argued that "it's not enough to call him a racist, so bind him over."
He reminded the judge of a psychologist's testimony that someone with white-supremacist leanings is more likely to have those attitudes reinforced in an adult prison than a juvenile facility.
"They've got nothing for him (in adult court) and everything for him here," Palmer said. "This kid needs to stay here. Let's do the community a favor and give him therapy and treatment so they are protected."
ThisWeek reporter Kevin Corvo contributed to this story.