Lawyer: Teen in terror case bullied
Clarkston – — A 17-year-old Brandon High senior charged with making a terrorist threat on a phone app promising an event “bigger than Columbine” was bullied by students and tired of others being bullied, his attorney said Thursday.
Jacob Michael Young of Ortonville, is also charged with using the Internet to commit a crime by using an After School app used by 450 Brandon students, about one-third of the school’s student population. The threats caused a two-day school lockdown, put parents, students and staff on edge and caused several hundred students to stay home, officials said.
Outside a Clarkston District Court on Thursday, Young’s attorney, Deanna Kelley, said events leading up to the app postings may help explain her client’s actions. She described him as an intelligent, talented and sensitive student who found he had enough of insults and racist remarks.
“He is bi-racial and had been bullied at school — called ‘Chico’ because he looks different from some of the students and he isn’t Hispanic,” Kelley said. “He had heard of the app and went on it and found all kinds of racial messages and bullying.
“He thought ‘what is the worst thing I can write on this to get it taken down,’ ” Kelley said. “It (threats) were his idea of a statement and it was a bad idea.”
Young, who appeared in court dressed in a suit and tie and accompanied by his parents, is out of a $50,000 cash surety bond. On Thursday, Judge Kelley Kostin made some amendments to his bond conditions and set a Jan. 20 preliminary examination on the charges, felonies which carry up to 20 years in prison.
Young had been ordered to have no contact with any students or staff at the school. Kostin amended that condition to permit him to have contact with his own siblings who attend the school but “with adult supervision.” Kostin also defined a “no use of electronic devices” condition to mean devices, like computers or cellphones, in which he could either receive or send messages on the Internet.
Brandon principal Dan Stevens said Thursday that Young is no longer attending the school and a hearing — at which the school will recommend his expulsion — has not been set. Attorney Kelley said Young’s father is “exploring scholastic options” to permit his son to get his GED degree without using a computer.
An Apple spokesman told The Detroit News recently the app had been removed from the Apple store due to violations of Apple guidelines. Developers of the app did not respond to emails from The News.
School officials were advised Dec. 8 that 17 related messages and five photos had been posted on Brandon’s 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 vowed a pending event at Brandon would be “bigger than Columbine” and people should stay home.
“This app and the threats caused a lot of fear at the school,” said Ashley Ortwine, 17, a senior who started a petition to have the app removed from the Internet.
Since Monday, Ortwine has collected 150 signatures on the petition. She plans to send it to Apple.
“We want it permanently taken down,” she said, “They have taken it down before, then changed it or made some ‘parental advisory’ statement and then put it right back up again.”