Justices affirm delinquency in Seymour school plot

The Indiana Supreme Court upheld Thursday the juvenile delinquency adjudication of a sophomore who was found to have plotted to shoot up and blow up Seymour High School during the 2015-2016 school year.

B.T.E. was adjudicated as a delinquent for what would have been Level 3 felony attempted aggravated battery for a plot hatched in his sophomore year that he intended to carry out during his senior year, on April 20, 2018 — the anniversary of the 1999 Columbine High School massacre.

In the fall of 2015, B.T.E. and fellow student M.V. began planning an attack on the school, specifically targeting two of their peers, J.R. and G.M. The two students frequently discussed their plans via Facebook, and B.T.E. drew a diagram of one of his classrooms, specifically pointing out J.R.’s seat.

The Jackson Superior Court eventually entered true findings for conspiracy to commit aggravated battery and attempted aggravated battery. B.T.E. was sentenced to probation until his 18th birthday, with a suspended commitment to the Indiana Department of Correction.

After hearing oral argument in the case in January, the justices affirmed the attempted aggravated battery finding Thursday in B.T.E. v. State of Indiana, 36S05-1711-JV-711. Justice Geoffrey Slaughter wrote for the unanimous court that concluded B.T.E. had taken a substantial step toward completion of the underlying offense.

The court reached its conclusion by weighing five factors: whether B.T.E.’s acts strongly corroborate his criminal intent; the severity of the charged crime; the proximity to the underlying crime; the examples listed in the Model Penal Code; and whether the defendant’s multiple acts, viewed together, indicate he attempted a crime.

“B.T.E. did more here than simply think evil thoughts,” Slaughter wrote for the court. “What may have begun as mere ruminations about his hatred for J.R. turned into a plot to kill him along with another classmate, and then extended beyond mere planning and preparation. The planning, the solicitations, the bomb research, the drawings depicting the target classroom, and the death note together justify the trial court’s conclusion that B.T.E.’s affirmative conduct amounts to a substantial step toward the commission of aggravated battery. For these reasons, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.”

Justices aligned with the dissenting opinion of Court of Appeals Judge Cale Bradford after the majority of the panel partially reversed B.T.E.’s attempted aggravated battery adjudication, finding that he had not taken a substantial step toward the crime.

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