AIKEN - A Family Court judge released a former North Augusta High School freshman and ordered probation this morning, a month and a half after the 15-year-old came to campus with a gun in his waistband and six bullets in his pocket.
But Judge Larry Inabinet said he was reluctant to send Joshua Jones home with his father and three siblings. The judge seemed dissatisfied after questioning Joshua extensively on why he needed to carry a gun. He berated the youngster as a bad role model for his younger brothers.
"You're just as nonchalant about it as if you were carrying a pocketknife," Judge Larry Inabinet said.
The judge ordered an indefinite period of probation, telling Joshua that he could order him back into the custody of the Department of Juvenile Justice for 18 to 24 months if the teen got into more trouble.
The judge said he wasn't sure whether school officials would allow him to return.
"If I was them, I wouldn't want you there with your mentality on weapons," he said.
School administrators became aware of the .32-caliber handgun on May 14 when students informed them the weapon had fallen out of Joshua's waistband. School principal Kyle Smith confronted Joshua in the gym, and the freshman turned over the gun and bullets.
The student told officials that he had been threatened by neighborhood youth and needed the gun for protection.
The next day, he pleaded guilty in Family Court to carrying a weapon on school property. He was sent to the Midlands Evaluation Center in Columbia, where he spent weeks being evaluated in preparation for today's hearing.
In court today, Public Defender David Mauldin said Joshua "made a bad decision in this case" and recommended his client be released back to his family.
"They just hopefully want to put this situation behind them and get on with their lives," Mr. Mauldin said.
Joshua said he had a .25-caliber gun he bought on the streets of Atlanta, where he lived with his mother until he got expelled from school for fighting. He moved to North Augusta in December to live with his father, James Jones.
At a neighborhood party in North Augusta, Joshua traded guns with an older teen because he wanted "more power."
Prodded by the judge to say something, Joshua said, "I just want to say I'm sorry for what I've done. I learned my lesson."
Judge Inabinet accepted a recommendation of probation by Assistant Solicitor Serena McDaniel, but he warned Joshua's father to "get a hold of him."
"Now, if you don't take care of him, then you don't worry about it," Judge Inabinet said, "Society will take care of him."
Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (803) 279-6895 or firstname.lastname@example.org.