Sheriff, prosecutor disagree with probation for Columbine-style plot

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LAPEER CO. (WJRT) (3/1/2018) - Lapeer County Circuit Court Judge Nick Holowka repeatedly said he knew it would not be the popular sentence, but he explained it's the right and just one.

His decision is based off of word from those who supervised the three teens in the juvenile detention system. The psychiatrists and therapists agreed they're not a threat to society.

The Judge, a former teacher, explained he had many sleepless nights handling this case.

"They're under detention. They see the four walls of their residence. They don't have other human contact except for their parents and close relatives," Judge Holowka said.

For the next five years, 15-year-old Gunnar Rice and 16-year-olds Dylan DeAngelis and Asa Candela are under strict house arrest.

"If they step out of line, even with the slightest infraction, they'll be convicted as adults and be re-sentenced as adults," Prosecutor Michael Sharkey explained.

The three boys were 14 and 15-years-old in January 2017 when the Judge said Rice and Candela got drunk on vodka and made a Columbine-style video. In it, they plotted to shoot up Zemmer Middle School and Lapeer High School in 2020 and then commit suicide.

They're also accused of texting DeAngelis about using guns and bombs to kill as many people as they could.

"There's not a minute that goes by that I don't regret what I did. Every day I think about it, all the time. I can't even get it out of my head," Candela told the Judge.

"I have grown up and I accept full responsibility for my actions and how my stories affected others," DeAngelis explained during his hearing. "I've been on house arrest and I watched on television the Florida shooting. I understand how badly I must have scared people in that matter."

During his sentencing, Rice said, "I thought about if something like this happened at like my brother's school, I'd be like, you know, in fear for his life. And, I've learned a lot over this past year."

Each one apologized to their family, the community and the Judge.

Under probation, the Judge said they'll remain on GPS tether, continue online schooling and have to stay away from social media, firearms, drugs, alcohol and school grounds.

They also each have to pay fines of over $20,000 and do 100 hours of community service.

Because the three were sentenced under the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act, they won't have a criminal record if they successfully complete their probation.

As school threats continue, in the wake of a Florida high school shooting last month, the Lapeer County Sheriff and Prosecutor said the sentence sends the wrong message.

"In the video, he states how he is going to make our children suffer before he kills them," Prosecutor Sharkey said. "He follows the Columbine playbook almost to a 't.'"

He would've preferred they got jail time.

"The sentencing, I think, should've included incarceration because that would've sent the message to this community that if you are going to make a threat to shoot up any type of school here, no matter where it is, that we take that serious and that there will be consequences," he explained.

Sharkey said we can't ignore the local rise in school threats in the wake of the mass shooting at Florida's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last month.

"They just got a gift in there and I hope it works," Sheriff Scott McKenna said. "They now walk out of this courtroom with - in the driver's seat of their future."

Sheriff McKenna wished the sentence was harsher; but he said, in school visits, he'll be explaining to students throughout the County that the next five years of house arrest won't be easy either.

"They're not gonna have a friend over, they're not gonna be going to visit, they're not gonna go to a ballgame, they're not gonna go to a school," he explained. "So that's what I hope the other ones that are out there, that might make that threat today or that social media post, is this is an affect on them."

If the teens violate their probation, the judge could re-sentence them as adults.

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