ConVal High School threat case may go to trial

  • This photo, allegedly posted to ConVal student Anthony Wheeler's Snapchat account, appears to show another student holding two realistic-looking guns with the caption 'Don't go to school wednesday.' Courtesy photo

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 1/7/2019 10:33:58 AM

The court case against an Antrim teenager allegedly involved in a social media threat that closed the ConVal Regional School District for a day in November may be headed to trial.

Anthony Wheeler, 18, is currently being held without bail on preventative detention Amy H. Manchester, the prosecuting attorney for the case, said on Thursday.

Preventative detention is used when there is evidence that the person charged in a criminal case would pose a danger to themselves or others in the community.

Both Manchester and Wheeler’s attorney Justin C. Shepherd said that the case needs to head to trial as there appears to be no other potential resolution to the case.

“The state is taking these cases very seriously,” Manchester said. “We believe that incarceration is warranted.”

“I don’t disagree that the allegation is quite serious or that the photo is in poor taste,” Shepherd said Monday. “I don’t think the intent was to cause an evacuation… it is our position that he did not have the requisite intent to commit a crime when he took this picture.”

Shepherd said he will also be filing a motion to dismiss the case, as there are potential legal issues to be raised about Wheeler’s First Amendment rights. 

Wheeler is one of three ConVal Regional High School students accused of creating and disseminating a photograph on Snapchat. In the photo, one of the students was holding two realistic-looking firearms with the caption “Don’t go to school Wednesday.”

Antrim Police Sgt. Brian Lord told the Ledger-Transcript in November that police have seized the firearms used in the photo, but he would not comment if they were real or not.

Following an investigation into the threat early in the morning on Nov. 7, the decision was made to close all 11 schools in the district for one day.

It was said during the arraignment/bail hearing that more than 2,200 students, their parents, and around 500 staff members were affected by the closures.

Wheeler has been charged with three felony-level counts of criminal threatening.

Wheeler was not the student featured in the photograph, but his name was featured in the top left-hand corner of the post, indicating that it was his Snapchat account that was used to post it.

The two others involved have also been arrested and charged with criminal threatening-related charges according to an Antrim police press release, but their names have not been released as they are minors.

All three admitted to being involved in taking the photo posting it to Snapchat, as well as smoking marijuana the night it was taken, according to an affidavit on file with the court.

During an arraignment/bail hearing at the Hillsborough Superior Court North in Manchester, Assistant County Attorney Patrice Casian argued the threat needed to be taken seriously given the photograph’s connections to the 1999 Columbine shooting.

The subject is wearing a trench coat, glasses, and a hat similar to what was worn by the Columbine shooters in the photograph.

“Everything is emulating what happened on that day,” Casian said during the hearing. “This isn’t something that’s a joke, this is something that must be taken seriously.”

An attorney argued on Wheeler’s behalf during the hearing that he should have been released to his grandmother – his guardian – on personal recognizance bail as he has no prior criminal record.

There is a dispositional conference scheduled for Jan. 14. Manchester said it will likely be during that court date that a trial is requested.

“As of now, we have agreed to request trial dates,” Manchester said.

Motions for a probable cause hearing and a bail hearing were filed on Dec. 10, but both were denied, according to court documents.

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