EFFINGHAM — A 17-year-old who made a shooting threat at Effingham High School last year was placed on probation Friday after several sentencing delays in her case.
Judge Kevin Parker told the teen during the hearing in Effingham County Circuit Court that had she been an adult at the time, her crime would have been punishable by a sentence in the Illinois Department of Corrections. Instead, the teen is on probation until she turns 21 years old. She also has to refrain from the use of illicit drugs and alcohol, undergo a mental health evaluation and perform 100 hours of community service.
Parker said the juvenile's probation could be modified or terminated before the teen is 21 if probation and the court finds she has cooperated with the probation terms. The teen is also required to complete her G.E.D. through the Pathways program at Lake Land College, pay a $5 a month probation fee and write a letter of apology to the high school and Unit 40.
The teen was credited for two days in juvenile detention and for 225 days of electronic monitoring via an ankle bracelet tracking device. The tracking monitor was removed at the end of July, according to Effingham County State's Attorney Bryan Kibler. Kibler noted that the teen had not committed any offenses while wearing the monitor.
Parker heard sentencing recommendations from both Kibler and the teen's attorney, Janet Fowler, prior to the sentencing. Both recommended probation, with Fowler saying the juvenile would be a "model probationer." Parker also heard testimony from the state's witness, Effingham High School Principal Kurt Roberts, who was questioned by both Fowler and Kibler.
While questioned by Kibler, Roberts said the teen had written on a piece of paper a threat to shoot up the school on a certain date and time.
"That puts in a security mode," Roberts said of threat the teen delivered at the school in December 2018.
Upon finding the note, Roberts said school administrators and police started an attempt to identify the note's author through writing samples and viewing video footage to see who had put the note in the hallway at the school. Roberts said it was through that footage that police and school personnel were able to identify the teen.
Roberts said the threat came at a time of the day when many of the students were not in classrooms.
"At that time, half of the student body was at lunch," Roberts said.
When police spoke to the teen, she admitted to writing the note and that she acted alone in doing so, Roberts said. Kibler asked if several people and entities were involved in identifying the note's author, and Roberts said there were more police on school grounds in addition to the resource officer, and the school went on lock down and followed security measures already in place for such threats.
Roberts said the incident caused panic and anxiety for students and staff. He added that the teen did not provide a motive for writing the note.
Fowler only asked one question, inquiring whether or not her client was cooperative with police and school administrators at the time of the incident. Roberts said the girl was not cooperative at first but later was.
Following the testimony, Kibler told the court he would have asked for a jail sentence had the teen been an adult but felt the law would not allow it. The juvenile was charged with making a terroristic threat, a Class X felony.
Fowler said her client now understands what she did was wrong and that she "wasn't thinking" when she wrote the note. Fowler suggested the teen was upset with her home life and with the school at the time she wrote the threat.
"She understands it was not a smart thing to do. Now she wants to make something good of her life," Fowler said.
Fowler told the court the teen plans to move to Charleston next month after she turns 18 and is already attending courses to obtain her GED. She is also employed.
The juvenile then gave a statement during the hearing.
"I am aware of the consequences of my actions. I'm ready to move on from it," the teen said.
Parker told the teen during her sentencing that a sentence is necessary to deter others from committing the same offense.
"I wish you the best of luck. I want you to know that no one in this room thinks you're a bad person," Parker said.
A review date of the teen's probation status is set for Dec. 11 at 1 p.m.
Kaitlin Cordes can be reached at email@example.com or 217-347-7151 ext. 132.