NEWS- Top secret: Judge refuses to reveal verdict in bomb case
The case that began with a press conference announcing an alleged plot to blow up two high schools ends with a court order forbidding any release of information about what happened in court March 28– whether the three teens on trial were found guilty, not guilty– or even whether the trial is over.
"We can't talk about it," says Commonwealth's Attorney Jim Camblos at the end of the third day of testimony, citing a court order. "I can't tell you what happened."
Camblos refused to reveal even whether the trial was over, continuing the mystery of the alleged plot that's had four teenagers in custody for almost two months.
"If anybody talks about it, they're in violation of a court order," says Camblos, warning reporters, "If you write about it, we'll come after you to ask who talked about it."
Tuesday's trial consisted of the defense and closing arguments in the case. The prosecution rested its case March 17.
Judge Susan Whitlock ordered the proceedings closed at a March 8 hearing in Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court because two of the teens are 13. The 16-year-old pleaded guilty to two felony counts and a third felony charge was dropped. He was represented by Llezelle Dugger in the Public Defender's office and will be sentenced April 5 after further evaluation. He could remain in detention until he is 21.
All four teens charged with plotting to blow up Albemarle and Western Albemarle high schools have been incarcerated since the charges were filed in early and mid-February.
The case touched off a heated local debate. In a Thursday March 23 segment on WINA radio's new afternoon talk show featuring Coy Barefoot and Hook editor Hawes Spencer, callers were split.
From the start of the explosive allegations against the four Albemarle teens, authorities have remained tight-lipped about their physical evidence other than to say they seized three computers, two shotguns, and "other evidence."
In a March 16 Hook story, one parent reveals what was taken from his home, and he says it was no evidence of a terror conspiracy. The haul? Two shotguns, some firecrackers, a smoke bomb, and a box of kitchen matches. The parent says that all the items came from his locked gun case– and that the "explosives" were his.
The lack of information about the case continues to perplex. "It's so strange," says Waldo Jaquith, a former student at Western Albemarle High. "So we don't even know if they did it unless they disappear into prison? If they attempted to blow up the school, shouldn't we know? And if they didn't, wouldn't they want us to know that?"
Jaquith interprets the lack of information as a sign the threat wasn't that serious.
John Whitehead, founder of the Rutherford Institute, has handled hundreds of "zero tolerance" cases in which children throwing spitballs or using laser pointers were suspended or prosecuted.
"I think we want safe schools, but the thing we don't want is to overreact and destroy people's lives," he cautions. "The tendency since Columbine is to really over-react."
Were three teens of the four teens charged with plotting to blow up Albemarle High guilty? The court refuses to say.
FILE PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO