New Charges Against Seventh-Grader In Joplin Shooting


Monday, February 26th 2007, 6:45 pm
By: News On 6


CARTHAGE, Mo. (AP) Prosecutors filed two new felony charges Monday against a Joplin seventh-grader accused of firing an assault rifle at his middle school last fall.

Thomas White, 14, has already been certified to stand trial as an adult on three other felony charges: first-degree assault, armed criminal action and attempted escape.

White appeared in Jasper County circuit court Tuesday for a preliminary hearing. But the hearing was postponed one week to give White's public defenders time to review the new charges of assault and unlawful use of a weapon.

White, wearing wrist, waist and ankle chains, looked down through most of the hearing and only whispered briefly with his public defenders. He was led into the court wearing a striped jail inmate uniform.

White has pleaded not guilty to the original three charges.

Assistant prosecuting attorney Todd Hawkins said the new charges were based on a review of police reports from the incident last October. Hawkins declined to elaborate on why the new charges were filed now rather than earlier.

"We have finished reviewing the reports the police provided to us and we think these additional charges are warranted," Hawkins told reporters.

Public defender Brett Meeker told the court she had only been given the amended charges 15 minutes before the hearing and requested time to review them.

The new charges are based on allegations that White pointed the assault trifle at an assistant school superintendent and that he fired one shot into a school ceiling.

White is being held in Jasper County jail on a $250,000 bond.

Meeker said her client was holding up "as well as can be expected".

"He's 14 and in jail," she added.

White is accused of taking his father's assault rifle to Joplin Memorial Middle School on Oct. 9 and pointing it at administrators, teachers and students before firing a shot into the ceiling.

He then allegedly tried repeatedly to shoot Principal Stephen Gilbreth as Gilbreth ushered him out of the school. Police said the rifle jammed because of improper seating of an ammunition clip in the gun.

No one was injured.

White was 13 at the time of the incident.

He is one of the youngest offenders ever to be certified as an adult in the state. Three St. Louis girls, two age 14 and one 13, were tried as adults in a 2004-2005 murder case.

If White is convicted, he faces an approach to juvenile crime known as blended sentencing and a state program involving dual courts' jurisdiction.

The court could sentence White jointly to the Department of Corrections and the Division of Youth Services, with the adult portion of the sentence suspended upon completion of the juvenile sentence.