Brandon High student charged in smartphone app threats

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Clarkston – — A 17-year-old Brandon High student was charged Thursday with making a terrorist threat and using the Apple “After School” smartphone app to make social media threats about pending violence at the school.

Jacob Michael Young, a senior, was advised of the charges — both felonies punishable by up to 20 years in prison — by video arraignment from the Oakland County Jail, where he has been since Wednesday, when he was arrested at his home. Young’s attorney, Deanna Kelley, entered a not-guilty plea for him.

“This was not a generic threat, it was specific and terrifying to students and staff,” said Oakland County assistant prosecutor Ken Frazee. He asked Judge Kelley Kostin of 52-2 District Court to set a cash bond for Young.

Young’s attorney described him as a “good kid” who “is having some emotional problems.” Young has no criminal history and works part time at a pizzeria.

“This is a kid who attends school regularly, who works, whose parents have no problems with him,” said Kelley. “This is a kid who was trying to make a statement and it went horribly wrong ... he didn’t intend to terrorize anyone.”

Outside the courtroom, Kelley said Young was “trying to make a statement about the app.

“He was upset about bullying on the app and nobody was doing anything about it. This was his explanation to police and it went horribly wrong.

“This is a 17-year-old kid,” she said. “These apps are so dangerous. Kids aren’t thinking about who reads what they write and how they respond to it.”

Kelley noted Young’s own father pulled three other children out of school, unaware that Jacob was the alleged source of the threats.

Frazee told the judge: “So (Young) is frustrated with the app — that doesn’t mean you terrorize a community.”

Kostin agreed.

“The threat to the community in this particular case ... is very disturbing and threatening to the community as a whole, and cash bond is appropriate,” the judge said.

Kostin set a $50,000 cash surety bond with multiple conditions: that Young be supervised by the court, confined to home — excluding court-approved trips for medical appointments or court — wear a GPS tether, have no use of computers and electronic devices, and have no contact with anyone from Brandon High School.

Throughout the hearing, Young responded calmly and politely to Kostin’s questions and said he understood the charges. Several relatives and friends, including one teen girl who was crying, left the courtroom immediately after the hearing.

Oakland County Sheriff’s Detective Nick Pung told Kostin that when questioned by investigators, Young admitted sending the messages over the app because “he didn’t like the way the app was being used and wanted to direct attention to it.”

School officials were advised Monday that 17 related messages and five photos had been posted on the site threatening, “I’m going to kill everyone ... bang bang Brandon bang bang ... death to you all.”

The messages, accompanied by a photo of someone holding a shotgun and wearing a “Natural Selection” T-shirt, boasted the pending event would be “bigger than Columbine” and warned people should stay home.

There were 450 users on the After School app for Brandon High, officials said. The school, which has a typical attendance rate of about 1,200 students, dipped to about 250 by Tuesday afternoon, officials said. Parents of students in the school district were advised of the threat and despite increased security at the school, kept their children stay home.

Messages can be posted anonymously on the app but investigators were able to track down the sender of the messages by Facebook account addresses that were needed to access the app.

A preliminary conference on charges is scheduled for Dec. 18. 338-0919