Deal for UVA gun scare students

A little over a month after four UVA students were arrested and charged with brandishing a firearm during the filming of a class project, prosecutors and defense have reached a deal which clears the students of wrongdoing, but requires them to pay reparations and perform community service.

The charges will officially be dismissed in August, and if the students stay out of trouble, their records will be expunged after three years. The students, Caroline Choe, Jerry Hsieh, Eric Chau, and Christopher Allen Smith must pay approximately $400 each to reimburse Charlottesville and UVA police and for the medical expenses of a student who was taken to the hospital and treated for a panic attack as a result of the incident. They also must perform 50 hours of community service.

"We wanted to make it real clear that everyone believed that the police responded appropriately and effectively on what happened the week before," says Charles Sipe, attorney for Smith, the first student arrested and charged after the Monday, April 23 incident, which came on the heels of the April 16 massacre at Virginia Tech."I think everybody's happy," says Sipe.

Choe, reached in Northern Virginia where she's home for the summer, says the four are grateful that Commonwealth's Attorney Jim Camblos was amenable to a deal. "We're relieved that we're not being convicted," says Choe. Still, she adds, "I feel like the consequences are a little more extreme than anyone had expected." Choe says each of them will have to pay close to $600 including court costs. "Financially, it's not the easiest situation," she says.

More than anything, it may have been the timing of the incident that prompted such an extreme reaction from students and police. At just past 11pm on Monday, April 23, Choe, Hsieh, Chau and Smith were outside Wilsdorf Hall, an engineering building, filming a scene for a Japanese class final project. Choe, Hsieh and Smith were enrolled in the class; they'd recruited Chau to hold the camera that night.

Part of the scene– set in Tokyo– involved a robbery, and Smith– the only non-Asian in the group– had donned a black outfit and was carrying a broken plastic BB gun that Choe had provided. The gun was not loaded, and its trigger was broken off. As Smith passed a first floor window in Wilsdorf, he saw a student inside appear to become frightened. Smith sent a nearby student inside to tell everyone there was no threat.

Instead of offering comfort, however, when the doors to the building opened, some students panicked and barricaded themselves in classrooms. One female student was so distraught she had to be taken to the hospital by ambulance.

Dozens of officers responded to the emergency call, and after they'd secured the area, they arrested Smith, who spent two nights at the Charlottesville Albemarle Regional Jail. The other three students were arrested at their residences on Thursday evening, April 26. "I never thought I'd be led out of my dorm in handcuffs," said Choe soon after she was released from custody.

While the criminal aspect of the case is resolved, the students still face disciplinary charges through UVA's Judicial Committee. Hsieh, who graduated in May and will attend medical school in the fall, already had his hearing, which Choe says had a "positve result." The other three must wait until the fall for their own hearings. It makes the summer stressful, she says. "We're not sure how it's going to turn out for each one of us."

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5 comments

I think this was equitable. It wasn't a crime, it was a mistake. But mistakes should have consequences when they affect others adversely.

why delete posts/comments? in fact John raised some good points, oh that's right, the post is gone now.....

censorship is for pansies

This is ridiculous. While I understand that folks might be a bit tense after VT, a broken plastic BB gun shouldn't send someone into violent hysterics. If it did, it says much more about that person than the one with the toy.

The anti-gun folks have so demonized firearms, been so misleading and untruthful in what they say about them, and the sad free victim shooting zones in schools and other places, that few people have even the most vague acquaintance with different types of guns. They can't tell the difference enough to know when to be genuinely concerned and when not.

The student with the toy gun saw that someone appeared upset, and immediately tried to pass the word that this was a class assignment. Nonetheless, though the students were found to not have done anything wrong, they nevertheless are being punished as if they had. What a world! To make them wait 3 years to actually be fully exhonerated is simply unfair. The prosecutors/district attorneys are supposed to seek justice.

What they did is very serious. Because other students were not told what was going on, someone carrying a gun under the "better to be judged by twelve than carried by six" rule might have shot one of the actors. Two good people's lives might have been ruined.

your inane ramblings and paranoia are getting continually erased, so just give the staffers a minute or two, and i'm sure there get back to consistently deleting your posts.

which, i'm sure, is welcomed by just about everyone here but you.