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TOUGHER LAW SOUGHT IN JUVENILE BOMB CASES
SWEET HOME ARREST PROMPTS 2 STATE LEGISLATORS TO SEEK INCREASED PENALTIES

Prompted by last month's arrest of a 15-year-old Sweet Home High School student, two local state legislators are pushing a bill that would dramatically increase the penalties for juveniles who possess bombs or bombmaking materials.

"Making bombs and planning to use them in a school building is not a science project," said Assemblyman Robin L. Schimminger, D-Kenmore, who is sponsoring the bill with Sen. Mary Lou Rath, R-Williamsville. "It's setting out on a path to commit mass violence and calls for a penalty of far more than a few months in a detention center."

The Sweet Home sophomore last week pleaded guilty in Erie County Family Court after being arrested for having bombmaking materials and telling friends he planned to use them at his school.

The special-education student faces the possibility of 12 months in a residential treatment center when sentenced by Judge James H. Dillon on April 25. In some cases, a placement can be extended to 18 months.

Under the proposed legislation, 14- and 15-year-olds possessing bombs or bombmaking material could be prosecuted as adults, and face the possibility of from 5 to 25 years in prison. Those provisions would not apply to the Sweet Home student.

"Nobody affiliated with the Sweet Home incident wants to hear that simply because the student accused of this crime is 15, he should be slapped on the wrist and be able to go about his business," Rath said. "This isn't throwing eggs or painting graffiti we're talking about here."

Erie County District Attorney Frank J. Clark said the legislation "makes eminently good sense."

He said 14- and 15-year-olds can already be charged as adults for bringing loaded weapons to school because of the danger that this presents. "Isn't that rationale equally applicable to an explosive device?" Clark said.

Sen. Dale M. Volker, R-Depew, said he supports the legislation, since "people must know that this type of behavior will not be tolerated and will be met with swift and severe criminal penalties."

The boy was ordered to undergo a psychiatric assessment before sentencing, and is being held in a youth detention facility. School officials have said the boy will be barred from Sweet Home High School this school year and probably beyond.

The bill has been referred to the Senate Codes Committee and has 10 co-sponsors in that house.

e-mail: psimon@buffnews.com

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