SALT LAKE CITY – A 16-year-old Utah boy charged in a plot to blow up his high school was sentenced on Tuesday to six months at a secure youth center after pleading guilty to a charge of possession of a weapon of mass destruction.
Police say the Roy High School student and an older classmate were inspired by the Columbine shootings and had a detailed plot, school blueprints and a plan to fly away after the bombing. Investigators never found a bomb, but conspiracy is an element of the possession charge.
A classmate tipped authorities to the plot after receiving text messages from the juvenile, who bragged that he planned to steal a plane from a nearby airport where officials said that was all but impossible. Still, the boy had logged hundreds of hours on a flight simulator program to prepare.
Dallin Morgan, 18, also was charged in January on the same felony count. Morgan is set to appear May 14 for a preliminary hearing in Ogden's 2nd District Court. He could face life in prison if convicted.
The Associated Press doesn't typically identify juveniles who are suspects in crimes.
The 16-year-old boy will be locked up for six months at a secure youth center that's similar to a prison. He will be required to continue his high-school studies and take a job there to pay off about $8,000 in restitution, Weber County prosecutor Letitia Toombs told The Associated Press.
The boy had some of the school's keys for a time, forcing it to change locks, she said.
Police say the two teens studied the school's security systems and figured out how to avoid being seen by security cameras.
Investigators never determined a motive. The teens sought "revenge on the world," the juvenile wrote in a text message to another classmate who has been hailed a hero for foiling the plot.
"If I tell you one day not to go to school, make damn sure you and your brother are not there," the boy wrote in another text message, according to court records. "We ain't gonna crash it, we're just gonna kill and fly our way to a country that won't send us back to the U.S."
The teens told authorities they were inspired by the deadly Columbine High School shootings in Littleton, Colo., in 1999. The younger suspect even paid a visit to interview the Columbine principal about the shootings and security measures.
However, the youth told Utah authorities he was offended by any comparison to the Columbine shooters because "those killers only completed 1 percent of their plan," according to a probable cause statement.
Columbine Principal Frank DeAngelis has confirmed he met with the 16-year-old suspect on Dec. 12, and as a result would no longer grant interviews to any students about the Columbine shootings.
"This was definitely a wake-up call," he said.
Roy is a suburb of Ogden.
Roy Police Chief Gregory Whinham has said the plot was months in the making, though the suspects hadn't set a date for a bombing.