All 16 schools impacted by threats to see single trial
Georgia man internet history traced in Pa. hometown
With an appointed defense attorney and no present ability to post a $2 million bond, the Georgia man charged with 22 second-degree felony counts of inducing panic in Washington, Noble, Athens, Union, Scioto, Jackson and Franklin county schools in Ohio and two counts related to alleged threats to a Pennsylvania high school, a jury trial is scheduled for Aug. 20.
Nicholas John Frances Hall, 18, of 1385 Washington Road, Thomson, Ga., appeared in person in Washington County Common Pleas Court on Thursday to plead not guilty to all of the felony counts.
The bond was one Hall already faced off of the initial arrest charges (one count of inducing panic and one count of making terroristic threats) from Marietta Municipal Court Judge Janet Dyar Welch who authorized the warrant on May 11 that allowed for Hall’s capture in Georgia by the McDuffie County Sheriff’s Office.
Washington County Prosecutor Nicole Coil argued during Thursday’s bond and arraignment hearing before Washington County Common Pleas Judge Mark Kerenyi to maintain the price tag due to the impact of four days of threats to 16 schools.
“Nine schools in Washington County, six schools in other Ohio counties and one school in Pennsylvania, all of them were unnecessarily disrupted, inconvenienced and alarmed because of Mr. Hall’s telephoned bomb threats and many schools were evacuated,” described Coil.
Minersville Area School District in Pennsylvania was the district Hall attended prior to moving to Georgia, Coil and Det. Robert McKee of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office confirmed following the hearing.
“Several employers and parents were inconvenienced because of the evacuations and having to pick up their children from school,” Coil described of the impact of threats made to schools between May 6 and May 11. “It’s also important to note that not only were people inconvenienced, but that they were genuinely alarmed and traumatized by these bomb threats.”
Hall was apprehended on May 11, indicted by a Washington County grand jury on May 19 and extradited to Ohio on Wednesday.
Coil said Hall caused trauma to local families, school staff and children by inducing panic.
“My office’s victim advocate went to one of the local elementary schools (and spoke) with the young children after Mr. Hall was apprehended to help ease fears of the students who are genuinely, and understandably very scared about returning to school because of Mr. Hall’s actions,” said Coil. “Mr. Hall has no genuine or meaningful ties to this community. While this was allegedly all done to get his girlfriend out of school, Mr. Hall is not from here and he does not have any family or work ties to this community.”
Coil also pointed to alleged evidence of Hall’s planning of the threats.
“Mr. Hall’s laptop in his hometown of Minersville, Pa., was searched and it was determined that he had a search history which involves school shootings,” she concluded before asking the court to maintain Hall’s bond set at $2 million.
Washington County Assistant Prosecutor David Silwani explained that all of the alleged threats made to schools in the various counties and two states will be prosecuted in the single case locally, rather than traveling to different jurisdictions.
“Statute allows us to do it, where the victims are substantially similar or it’s the same type of victim, then you can charge wherever the crime occurred,” Silwani explained.
This consolidation could also prevent additional costs of transport and incarceration paid for by tax dollars.
Hall, who was extradited to Ohio from Georgia on Wednesday, was appointed Noble County private attorney Jack Blakeslee, following the entirety of the Washington County Public Defender’s Office having to opt out of representing Hall in the case due to conflicts of interest.
Following the hearing, Blakeslee confirmed Hall’s indigence and inability to post the $2 million bond would induce a shorter window for speedy trial time, barring continuances potentially filed for and granted at a later date.
Kerenyi explained during the hearing that each felony count, if Hall is convicted and the charges are not reduced, could carry an indefinite prison term of eight to 12 years per charge.
He noted that if each charge were stacked with consecutive sentences and Hall’s behavior in prison warranted, he could be sentenced to a maximum of 176 to 264 years in prison.
“Each (count) carries a maximum fine of $15,000,” added Kerenyi. “If you add them all up, that’s $330,000.”
See past coverage of the developing story in the May 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 19 and 20, and June 3 editions of the Times below:
Click to read past Times’ coverage of the school threats case:
Janelle Patterson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.