The attorney for the teen accused of plotting a shooting rampage at Pottstown High School said yesterday that the case belongs in Juvenile Court.
Montgomery County Chief Public Defender Stephen G. Heckman filed a petition on Tuesday saying that moving the case against Richard Yanis, 15, from adult court would "serve the public interest."
Heckman said yesterday that the teen is benefiting from mental-health treatment he has received in custody and needs to continue it.
"That's where he belongs," said Heckman. "We're compiling evidence to support that."
First Assistant District Attorney Kevin R. Steele said that the nature of the offense made it "an automatic adult case." He said the defense must present evidence, such as psychological evaluations, that Yanis meets the criteria for a transfer to Juvenile Court.
"We'll evaluate the material when we receive it," Steele said.
According to Heckman's petition, Yanis was "involuntarily committed to an inpatient mental-health facility" on Dec. 4 and agreed to "up to 20 days of further inpatient treatment" on Dec. 9 - the day an arrest warrant was filed detailing Yanis's plot to "shoot everyone he did not like" at Pottstown High.
Steele said Yanis had not been arraigned on the charges, which include criminal attempt to commit murder and weapons offenses. Once the arraignment is scheduled, a judge will set bail, Steele said.
The juvenile justice system emphasizes rehabilitation, not punishment. Supervision ends when a treatment program is successfully completed or when a defendant turns 21, whichever comes first.
Attention focused on Yanis after his father, Michael, 52, reported on Nov. 11 that three firearms and ammunition had been stolen from him. After police contacted school officials, they uncovered evidence of the plan. Yanis had planned to carry out the massacre this year, but postponed the attack until next year after the school began checking backpacks and searching lockers, officials said.
Heckman said a hearing on the decertification petition would likely be held within the next few weeks unless the District Attorney's Office declined to oppose the request.