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Student admits to bringing gun to school

BY NICHOLAS MOFFITT | OCTOBER 31, 2014 5:00 AM

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At a pretrial conference Thursday, an Iowa City West High student admitted he knowingly brought a .357 handgun and ammunition to school on Oct. 10.

Despite the admission, a lot of what can happen is up in the air, 6th District Associate Judge Stephen Gerard II told The Daily Iowan.

Gerard will now decide the consequences of the charge carrying a weapon on school grounds, at a later disposition hearing — the juvenile equivalent of a sentencing hearing.

The disposition hearing has yet to be scheduled.

“What’s needed for rehabilitation is a good plan, which includes health-care people,” Gerard said.

On Oct. 10, at 2:52 p.m. police were called to West High after a .357 Smith & Wesson handgun with five rounds of ammunition, two knives, cigarettes, and a bag of pills were found in the student's backpack.

Today, Iowa City police declined comment on the gun’s owner.

The juvenile was taken into custody by police on Oct. 10 and was transferred to the Linn County Juvenile Detention Center.

One cause of concern, said Gerard, is how the 16-year-old will keep up with schoolwork. Johnson County Juvenile Court Officer Chris Arenas said the Iowa City School District had written a letter to the student’s grandmother — who serves as his legal guardian — that detailed the district’s plan to move forward either with expulsion or with a voluntary suspension for the 2014-15 school year.

“You can’t just let him sit at home all week,” Gerard said. “That will be the real issue going forward.”

Arenas said educational concerns have been there since the beginning.

“My concern — I shared this with [the juvenile] from first meeting him — is that he is not going to be in school for the duration of the remainder of this year. That’s definitely a concern,” he said during the hearing.

Gerard said alternative schooling is one option officials will look into at the disposition hearing.
For now, officials engaged with the case believe the student will remain out of school.

Arenas, Assistant County Attorney Pat Weir, and the juvenile’s private attorney, Anthony Haughton of Linn County Advocate Inc., agreed that continued detention until residential placement is the best option for now.

Since the juvenile has been in detention, said Arenas, there has not been any trouble with him.
“He is taking psychotropic medication, and the detention staff has reported he has not had any issues,” Arenas said during the conference.

He also said a reason for placing the juvenile in the detention center is that his legal guardian will leave the country, and after some forms are filled out, residential placement could be possible.

A wide range of potential consequences exists. Haughton said punishment could range from a consent decree — the equivalent of deferred judgment — to placement at the Eldora State Training School for Boys.

Gerard said the cooperation of the juvenile and his guardian in the case, previous history of mental-health issues, and recommendations from Johnson County Juvenile Court Services in the pre-disposition report would all play into the decision.

Haughton made it clear his goal is to obtain his client the equivalent of deferred judgment. 

“I want him to get a consent decree,” he said.


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