Students at Normal Community High School were evacuated to Eastview Christian Church on Sept. 7, 2012 after a student held a health class hostage and fired shots into the ceiling. (Stephanie Pawlowski/WJBC)
By Stephanie Pawlowski
BLOOMINGTON - The 14-year-old charged with holding a Normal Community High School class hostage in September and firing shots into the ceiling has entered a guilty but mentally ill plea on eight charges.
Those charges include armed violence, unlawful use of a weapon, unlawful possession of a firearm and aggravated unlawful restraint. Eight other similar charged were dropped as part of the plea deal. Defense attorney Art Feldman said sentencing ranges from probation until he's 21 to serving time in a detention center until he's 21.
"If he is sent to juvenile prison, they can do treatment in the prison facility or send him to a hospital facility," Feldman said. "Or, if he gets probation, he would be under a term of treatment that would either be inpatient or outpatient."
Feldman asked Chief Judge Elizabeth Robb to consider releasing the boy on electronic monitoring until the sentencing. Judge Robb said for his own safety and the safety of the community, he will stay in the juvenile detention center.
During a hearing last month, the prosecution presented a handwritten journal found in the home of the accused shooter. The writing was labeled "Plan Delta" and detailed a "revenge plot waiting for approval" from voices in the defendant's head. Experts testified the student was psychotic at the time of the shooting but was aware of the consequences of his actions.
The boy has been examined by two psychologists. Feldman said the boy has a mental illness and is responding well to medication and counseling.
"That's what I plan on presenting in court that he's willing to cooperate with whatever treatment is recommended," Feldman said. "He has been so far and he will continue to do so."
Feldman said he also plans to present information on the state's problems funding mental health facilities, closing facilities and the understaffing of many state homes. The boy could have his guardianship transferred to an agency such as the Department of Juvenile Justice or Department of Human Services. One of the agencies will examine the boy ahead of his sentencing, as well.
Feldman, the state's attorney's office and Chief Judge Robb are also looking into a legal ruling on violent juvenile offenders. It's possible the boy will have to register as a violent offender against youth with state police and local police when he turns 17 and provide a photo, address and employment for a period of ten years.
"We believe he's eligible, there's some question still about that," Feldman said.
The boy might have to pay restitution to the school. No exact figure was given by the assistant state's attorney, but the maximum is $150,000. Repairs are needed for the ceiling where the shots were fired.
The boy will be sentenced Jan. 22 at 2 p.m.