A Knox County teenager who sent a threatening social media message to numerous middle school students involving guns will retain a delinquency adjudication for felony intimidation, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday, though a misdemeanor adjudication was vacated on double jeopardy grounds. The appellate court declined to dismiss the message as a “juvenile antic” in light of the numerous American school shootings in recent years.
Thirteen-year-old K.Y, who was enrolled in e-learning at North Knox School, got in serious trouble after sending what she alleged to be a “joke” message through her friend’s social media account to Clark County Middle School students that included a cartoon character from an online gaming platform brandishing a handgun in each hand. Beneath the image, K.Y. had added the caption, “consider this a f—ing warning all of you don’t come to school on Monday.”
K.Y. told law enforcement that she found the picture and meme “on a school shooting site or something like that” and that she intended it to be “a joke” and was not looking to harm anyone. But the Knox Superior Court concluded there was probable cause to believe K.Y. was a delinquent child and ordered her to house arrest.
The trial court later officially found the teen to be a delinquent child and subsequently concluded she had committed acts that would constitute intimidation as a Class A misdemeanor and as a Level 6 felony if committed by an adult.
K.Y. was ordered to placement in a secure detention facility for 90 days, suspended to one year of probation. She was also ordered to complete 10 hours of community service and participate in in-home therapy services.
While it agreed there was sufficient evidence to support K.Y.’s felony intimidation adjudication, the Indiana Court of Appeals in In the Matter of K.Y., a Child Alleged to Be Delinquent v. State of Indiana, 21A-JV-330, ordered the juvenile court to vacate her misdemeanor adjudication after concluding she could not be adjudicated delinquent for both offenses.
“K.Y. contends, and the State agrees, that her adjudications for both felony and misdemeanor intimidation violate Indiana’s prohibition against double jeopardy because misdemeanor intimidation is an inherently included lesser offense of felony intimidation,” Judge Patricia Riley wrote for the COA.
Turning to the sufficiency of the evidence, the appellate court determined that although K.Y. testified she did not want to harm anyone, she also testified that she understood that school shootings happen and that middle school students would receive her social media message.
“A reasonable inference could be deduced from these circumstances that K.Y. intended to threaten Clark County Middle School students to engage in conduct against their will and to refrain from attending school on Monday, even if she did not intend to actually carry out the shooting,” Riley wrote.
The COA also disagreed with K.Y. that her message was the equivalent of a “juvenile antic” intended as a joke.
“Far too many times within the recent past, our nation has mourned as a result of horrific carnage wrought by gun wielding school students. K.Y. admitted being aware of and acknowledged these school shootings. As such, she must have known the effect the message would have on the students in the wake of these shootings, yet she chose to disseminate the post anyway. Not only did she elect to send a depiction of a violent cartoon, she consciously inserted a caption which left little to the imagination,” the COA wrote.
“In light of this stark reality in which our children attend school, a statement made by a thirteen-year-old student, aware of these realities, not to attend school on a specific day combined with an image of a character pointing handguns, can no longer be ignored or in hindsight be characterized as a joke that can be casually disregarded, but instead must be regarded as an intentional attempt to create fear and apprehension.”