AIKEN - In a case that caused hysteria at Midland Valley High School, a teen-ager charged with spreading rumors of an alleged bomb plot has been freed from juvenile detention because of a lack of sufficient evidence, court officials said Tuesday.
After being locked up for 12 weeks, the handcuffs came off 15-year-old Jaris Simon, and he was handed over to the Department of Social Services after a hearing in Aiken County Family Court on Monday. His grandmother, Blanche Toole, declined to take the boy back, and his father and stepmother do not have legal custody.
During Monday's hearing, Family Court Judge Larry Inabinet found insufficient evidence to hold Jaris on a charge of threatening to bomb the school after testimony from a female student and two school officials. The student testified Jaris made the threats on a school bus, and the school officials repeated the juvenile's truancy record.
Co-defendant Robert Turner, 15, will get his turn in court next week.
Assistant Public Defender David Mauldin said Tuesday that the evidence was weak against his client. Mr. Mauldin said Jaris was simply "part of the rumor chain" that started as a result of the co-defendant's threats.
"Our position has always been that he was one of the ones who heard the rumors and spread the rumors," he said. "I've maintained all along that what he did was separate from the other fellow. There was no evidence to link them together. I think they tried to make him guilty by association."
Sheriff's officials arrested the two freshmen in April, charging that both were at the heart of threats to blow up the school on Hitler's birthday and the one-year anniversary of the massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo.
During an April hearing a different judge heard testimony that the youths told students they were on a list to die.
Police said in court that Jaris admitted making statements to at least one other student about bombing the school. He also said he would be watching from the woods while the bomb went off and Robert shot students, according to testimony in April from Lt. Alecia Bodie, a juvenile investigator with the Aiken County Sheriff's Office.
Nearly half the freshman class at Midland Valley High stayed home April 20, the day of the alleged bomb plot.
The arrests and rumors led to national media attention, and several Midland Valley students underwent counseling because of fears stemming from the threats.
It is unclear where Jaris will live, but Mr. Mauldin said it is possible DSS officials could take him back to his mother's home in California.
Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (803) 279-6895 or firstname.lastname@example.org.