Judge sets bail at $100K for suspect in school shooting plot

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RUTLAND — A Rutland judge set bail at $100,000 for an 18-year-old Poultney man accused of planning to shoot up his former high school in Fair Haven, and if posted ordered that he be released into the custody of his father.

Should the bail be put up, Judge Thomas Zonay prohibited Jack Sawyer from entering the town of Fair Haven.

The amount set by the judge was twice as much as had been requested by prosecutors.

$50K bail sought first

Prosecutors had asked the judge impose $50,000 bail during a hearing Tuesday in Rutland Superior Criminal Court.

Sawyer's attorney argued that no bail was needed and that Sawyer intended to seek inpatient psychiatric care at the Brattleboro Retreat upon his release to the custody of his father.

Kelly Green, Sawyer's public defender, said late Tuesday afternoon that bail was not expected to be posted by the end of the day.

Sawyer's father, David Sawyer, testified earlier in Tuesday's hearing that he owned his own home in Poultney and was prepared to post the $50,000 prosecutors had requested.

Green said she couldn't comment on whether David Sawyer had the $100,000 in cash or could obtain a secured bond for that amount. She wouldn't say if she expected the bail to posted Wednesday.

David Sawyer would not comment after the hearing.

Other conditions of Sawyer's release include that he not contact students or staff at the school., and that he stay away from the school grounds.

David Sawyer said during the hearing that he would take his son as early as Tuesday if allowed to receive care at the Retreat, where he has been trying to secure a treatment bed for Sawyer.

Sawyer is facing four felony charges, including attempted aggravated murder and attempted aggravated murder in what police described as a foil plot to cause "mass casualties" at Fair Haven Union High School.

Sawyer had been held without bail at the Rutland jail since his arrest in mid-February.

The Vermont Supreme Court ruled last week that Sawyer couldn't continue to be held without bail, and the "attempted" charges against him did not rise to a standard need for an attempt offense under Vermont case law.

Prosecutors on Tuesday added two misdemeanor charges against Sawyer, a criminal threatening offense and the other for carrying a dangerous or deadly weapon, openly or concealed, with the intent or avowed purpose of causing harm.

Together, the two misdemeanor offenses carry up to three years in jail, if convicted.

Sawyer, who has no criminal record, had earlier pleaded not guilty to the four felony charges following his arrest in mid-February. On Tuesday, he pleaded not guilty to the two new misdemeanor charges brought by prosecutors.

Earlier Tuesday, Zonay denied a motion from Sawyer's attorneys, deciding against dismissing the four felony charges against him for lack of probable cause, including the offenses of attempted aggravated murder and attempted first-degree murder. Crimes, which if convicted, would send Sawyer to jail for the rest of his life.

That decision by Zonay follows a ruling last week issued by the Vermont Supreme Court that the charges did not meet standard for "attempt" crimes.

Defender General Matthew Valerio, whose office is representing Sawyer, said Tuesday afternoon an interview that Zonay's decision will be appealed to the Vermont Supreme Court.

"His decision basically tosses it to the Supreme Court," Valerio said. "The bottomline is, we're going to appeal it and we're going to win."

Valerio said he expects he can get an "expedited" hearing before the Vermont Supreme Court on the matter.

"I guess the trial judge is depending on the Supreme Court to do the dismissal," Valerio said of the Rutland judge. "I'm quite surprised by the trial court doing that."

Valerio said the high court did not dismiss the case outright because that wasn't the issue before them. Instead, he said, the matter the high court was asked to decide is whether Sawyer could continue to be held without bail.

"For us, it's an appeal of the court's denying our motion to dismiss for a lack of probable cause," he said of the latest planned appeal in light of Zonay's decision.

Zonay said during the hearing that the standard for finding probable cause for an offense is lower than the standard to dismiss a case. He said he will be taking up a pending defense motion to dismiss the case at a later time.

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