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Hearings for Roy High School bomb plotter will be open, judge says

Published March 22, 2012 2:57 pm

Juvenile court • "We certainly have a matter of great public concern," judge says.
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Ogden • A juvenile court judge will keep open the hearings of a Roy High School teen charged with plotting to bomb the high school, despite protests from his defense attorney.

"We certainly have a matter of great public concern," 2nd District Juvenile Court Judge Janice Frost said. "This is a case that potentially involves a great number of victims."

In 1998, the Utah Legislature passed a law allowing more openness in juvenile court proceedings. If a juvenile is older than 14 and charged with a felony level crime, hearings are presumed open unless a judge finds there is good cause to close them.

"Closure is the exception," said Michael O'Brien, an attorney representing The Salt Lake Tribune and other news outlets.

Scott Nickle, an attorney for the 16-year-old senior, argued that opening the hearing to the public would hurt the teen's chances of rehabilitation through the juvenile court.

But with the teen's 18-year-old co-defendant, Dallin Todd Morgan, charged in an adult court, and with prosecutors working to certify the 16-year-old as an adult, Frost said she would keep the hearings open.

"I think the public has an interest in knowing how the court arrives at those decisions," the judge said.

A status conference in the case has been set for next month. A preliminary hearing and possibly a certification hearing are set for May.

Authorities arrested the pair on Jan. 25, after other students came forward concerned about text messages the 16-year-old was allegedly sending.

The two Roy High School seniors allegedly planned to detonate a bomb during a school assembly then steal an airplane and fly away to freedom, police said. Searches turned up no explosives, but police said they did find plans for an explosive device along with maps of the school and its security.

The Salt Lake Tribune typically does not identify suspects charged in juvenile court.

afalk@sltrib.com