A 17-year-old boy, accused of plotting mass shootings at Hilliard Davidson High School, tearfully hugged his mother Wednesday after a juvenile judge ruled that he would be prosecuted as an adult.
John L. Staley III, released home on an electronic monitor, was immediately taken into custody. Franklin County Juvenile Court Judge Terri Jamison ordered him to be detained in the detention center and bailed for $ 250,000.
Staley of the Northwest Side was 16 years old when he was arrested in October 2016 after a fellow student contacted a clerk to say he heard Staley speak about the conspiracy on a school bus. He was charged with conspiracy for murder.
Jamison reviewed the evidence in the case, including reviews by two psychologists, to determine that Staley was not an appropriate candidate for treatment in the adolescent system.
“The court finds that there is insufficient time to rehabilitate Mr. Staley and adequately maintain public safety,” she said.
Both psychologists, including one who testified in a hearing before the judge last week, concluded that Staley could be treated in the juvenile system.
According to Jamison, case law allows judges not to agree with expert opinions.
She made an exception to the conclusion of the psychologists and the parole department that there were no victims of Staley’s actions.
“The victims in this case may not have suffered physical harm, but they actually did suffer psychological harm,” she said of the school’s students and staff.
Prosecutors filed a motion at the time of arrest to request that the case be transferred to an adult court. It was revealed that Staley had made diagrams of the school showing where the shooting would take place, tried to recruit other students to help, and collected gas masks and a tactical vest.
Investigators found that he had used his computer, mobile phone, and the Hilliard Davidson-issued iPad to investigate school shootings and gun acquisitions.
The search of these devices also revealed “extremely disturbing … photos of pictures of Nazis and neo-Nazis” and “pictures glorifying school shootings and illuminating the Holocaust,” said assistant prosecutor Joseph Gibson.
The psychologists found that Staley came from a good family, was not mentally ill or mentally disabled, and was more mature than others his age.
“It was his racist ideology, his neo-Nazi ideology, and his apparent obsession with these things and acts of violence that drove this and were not immature,” Gibson argued at the hearing last week.
“He cannot be rehabilitated. The juvenile system will not teach him not to be a neo-Nazi, it will not teach him not to be a racist, it will not teach him not to look for weapons.”
Defense attorney Stephen Palmer argued that “calling him a racist is not enough, so tie him over.”
He reminded the judge of a psychologist’s testimony that someone with white supremacist tendencies was more likely to reinforce these attitudes in an adult prison than in a youth facility.
“You have nothing for him (in adult court) and everything for him here,” said Palmer. “This kid needs to stay here. Let’s do the community a favor and give him therapy and treatment so that they can be protected.”