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‘I felt trapped’ — Teen pleads guilty to involvement in Rockford bomb threats

Posted at 3:36 PM, Aug 13, 2015

ROCKFORD, Mich. -- A former Rockford student pleaded guilty Thursday to his involvement in a string of bomb threats to the Rockford school district.

The teen, who is 16 and being charged as a juvenile, did not directly make the threats, he told a judge. Instead, he said he provided information to others in Texas, Massachusetts and the United Kingdom to make them.  Prosecutors say he has cooperated with the investigation in identifying those who did make the threats.

He was expelled from Rockford schools in July.

In court Thursday the teen expressed remorse for his involvement in the numerous threats to Rockford High School and school authorities.  The string of threats began in October 2014 and lasted through April.

Charged with making false threats of terrorism, the teen did face up to 20 years in prison, but the plea deal will mean he'll receive probation and rehabilitation instead of time in jail.

"It was a terrible point in my life, I knew it was wrong at the time," he said in court. “I really just didn’t know what to do and I know I made the wrong choice… I just felt like trapped."

The teen’s attorney told the judge his client had no friends in school and would often spend his lunch hour in the bathroom stall.

Vicki Seidl, Kent County Assistant Prosecutor said the decision to not charge the teen as an adult was due in large part to keeping options available for rehabilitation instead.

“Clearly we have an individual who needs help, who needs to be rehabilitated, and quite frankly our juvenile system and especially Kent County, has awesome services to take care of that," Seidl said.

"He can be rehabilitated so he doesn’t do it again.”

Rockford Superintendent Dr. Michael Shibler also spoke in court about how the threats created anxiety and fear throughout the community.

“I would expect this young man’s got to understand what he did was very, very painful to a lot of people and disrupted the educational environment of Rockford Public Schools," Shibler told FOX 17 afterward. "Whatever the consequences are, it’s going to be up to the courts to levy and I have confidence in the courts to do that.”

The teen will be liable to repaying restitution costs to law enforcement and to the school.  At a press conference announcing the arrests, investigators said the total cost of the threats cost about $131,000.

A no contact order was requested and the teen has been banned from using cellphones or computers leading up to his sentencing which will likely happen in September.