Monday, August 08, 2005

Not the end ...

This occured at the feeder school where I teach Electricity ...

Poole walks free after charge dropped

By TIM WELDON/Sun Staff Writer

Whether Winchester teenager William Poole wanted to orchestrate an armed takeover of George Rogers Clark High School, where he was enrolled as a junior, or whether his chilling writings were nothing more than a science fiction story as he claims, likely never will be resolved with a guilty or not guilty verdict in a court of law.

Tuesday, Clark County District Court Judge Brandy Oliver Brown dismissed a misdemeanor indictment that had charged Poole, 18, with criminal attempt to commit terroristic threatening. A short time later, Brown sustained a defense motion granting Poole shock probation after Poole served four months of a six-month sentence for contempt of court.

At 5:49 p.m. Tuesday, Poole walked out of the Clark County Detention Center, where he had been incarcerated since March.

Poole drew international attention following his arrest on felony terroristic threatening charges. Police and prosecutors allege Poole tried to solicit fellow students to join an organization that would take over an unnamed school. However, following his arrest, Poole claimed the writings were a fictional story about zombies taking over a school. His statements resulted in an outpouring of support for Poole from civil rights activists and on Internet blogs and message boards from people who accused authorities of being overzealous in enforcing the law.

Brown agreed with Poole's attorney, Brian Barker, who claimed the grand jury's indictment failed to state a criminal offense. Barker argued criminal attempt would require an overt act on Poole's part, something he says prosecutors failed to demonstrate.

Even Assistant County Attorney John Keeton was forced to concede the point. He told Brown there is no documented record of a conviction anywhere in Kentucky on a charge of attempt to commit terroristic threatening.

"Very simply put, the Commonwealth is unable to put forth statutory authority for prosecution of the offense," Keeton wrote. "It is not at all clear that the legislature contemplated such a crime as 'Attempted Terroristic Threatening,'" Keeton stated. "While the alleged conduct of Mr. Poole is very disturbing, it does no justice to our system, or to Mr. Poole, to try him on a charge that strains statutory interpretation."

Barker appeared to bristle at the notion that a legal technicality was responsible for the dismissal of the charges against Poole.

"I would say the grand jury carefully considered the matter. In the end, the grand jury decided there was not enough evidence to substantiate the claim. I submit that William was found to be not guilty based on the facts of the case," Barker stated.

However, Keeton retorted that since the case was never resolved through a trial, the question of whether Poole was found not guilty was never resolved.

Brown's dismissal of the criminal case against Poole opened the door to her granting Barker's motion for shock probation. Poole was found guilty of contempt in March when he violated the terms of his bond by going onto school property with a friend. Brown sentenced Poole to six months in jail.

Brown, who indicated that she seldom grants requests for shock probation, told Poole she was approving it in his case in order "to have something to hold over your head."

Had Poole served the remaining two months of his sentence for contempt, Brown would have been powerless to place any conditions upon his release. By granting his request for shock probation, Brown was able to set strict guidelines that Poole must follow for the next two years or risk being arrested for contempt and returning to jail.

Under the terms of his release, Brown is requiring that Poole reside with his grandparents, Kenneth and Joyce Craft, with whom he lived for approximately one year prior to his arrest. Brown instructed the Crafts to report any violations to police.

Poole is also required to take medication for an unspecified psychological disorder and follow recommendations made by mental health professionals. He is not allowed to be on any public or private school property, nor associate with any students. Brown also ordered Poole to follow his grandparents' house rules.

During the hearing, Poole's grandfather told Brown that prior to his arrest, Poole was an "angry young man" who didn't follow rules and didn't respect authority. "He needs psychological help," Craft said. "He needs to be evaluated."

Poole has received psychological evaluations. Before agreeing to release him from custody, Brown waited on a written statement from mental health professionals who concluded Poole does not require inpatient treatment for his psychological disorder, nor is he a danger to himself or others.

Brown implored Poole to take the terms of his probation seriously.
"A lot of people consider you to be dangerous. I'm praying you're not. I'm going to roll the dice," she said.

"Nobody's going to forget the nature of the charge," Brown added. "Nobody's going to say what you did was A-OK. It failed to meet legal standards. But it does not mean you should walk out and think you did nothing wrong. I don't want you to think it was bogus."

Detective Steve Caudill, who led the Winchester Police Department's investigation into the allegations, noted he has detected a change in Poole's personality since his arrest. "I'm optimistic," Caudill said when asked if he believed Poole can comply with the conditions placed on him and avoid returning to jail.

Brown dismissed the indictment against Poole without prejudice, meaning a future grand jury could, theoretically, reconsider Poole's case and return felony charges against him.

Barker indicated that Poole wants to complete his education. However, without being allowed on school property nor to associate with any students, it's unclear how that will be accomplished.
Brown delivered a final lecture to Poole. "If you haven't learned anything by going through this, you've lost a very valuable learning experience," she implored. "I'm hoping I won't see you again."

Poole replied, "You never will."

Then Poole was handcuffed for the one block walk between the Gov. James Clark Judicial Center and the jail. As he left the courtroom he smiled for a television camera trained on him and exclaimed, "I'm glad I get to go home."

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