Lawyers: Accused SC bomb plotter to plead guilty

FLORENCE, S.C. - The South Carolina teenager accused of plotting to blow up his high school will plead guilty to federal charges next week, the teen's attorneys said Friday.


Prosecutors and attorneys for Ryan Anthony Schallenberger, 19, were gathered in Florence for a pretrial hearing in Schallenberger's case. Instead, during a 10-minute proceeding, U.S. District Judge Bryan Harwell scheduled the teen's guilty plea for Wednesday.

Schallenberger has been in jail since he was arrested in April 2008, after police said his parents picked up a package at the post office addressed to him containing 20 pounds of ammonium nitrate. During a search of Schallenberger's home, police said they found other bomb-making materials and an audiotape the straight-A student wanted played after his death in an assault planned on Chesterfield High School, as well as a journal praising the Columbine High School killers in Colorado and plans for a suicide attack on his school.

The teen has pleaded not guilty to three federal explosives charges that carry a possible maximum sentence of 40 years in prison. A month after his arrest, federal prosecutors dropped the most serious charge, attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, which carried a maximum life sentence.

Schallenberger is scheduled to enter the guilty plea Wednesday in federal court in Florence. Neither prosecutors nor Schallenberger's attorneys would say which charges would be part of a plea agreement, which Assistant U.S. Attorney Rose Mary Parham said would likely be filed with the court Tuesday.

"We still have some things up in the air," Parham said after the brief hearing Friday.

A federal judge will likely sentence Schallenberger several weeks after he pleads guilty, after federal officials have prepared a sentencing report.

Schallenberger's attorneys had said they planned to mount an insanity defense. But federal evaluators ordered to examine the teen have said Schallenberger was not insane when he allegedly plotted to blow up the school.

In a report inadvertently unsealed due to a computer glitch in June, a psychiatrist and a psychologist who examined Schallenberger at a federal prison hospital in Butner, N.C., said the teen "was not suffering from a severe mental disease or defect rendering him unable to appreciate the nature, quality or wrongfulness of the behavior for which he is charged" and would have been mentally competent to stand trial.

"I don't think I would have killed anyone. ... I tried to force myself to do it because I was angry," Schallenberger told them, according to the report, adding that he ruminated on the Columbine shootings because of the attention they received. "One thing I liked, they stood up for what they believed in and I admired that."

Schallenberger also told evaluators he didn't think what he did was wrong because no one got hurt.

Schallenberger's mental state has always been an issue in the case. His mother called 911 two days before her son's arrest because he slammed his head into a wall and made threats against her. Shortly after his arrest, a federal agent testified Schallenberger told officers he wanted to die.

"He said death was better than life," Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent Craig Townsend testified last spring. "He told the sheriff he wanted to die and go to heaven and once he got there, he wanted to kill Jesus."



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