Teen accused in Middletown HS bomb hoax found not guilty

Prosecutor is requesting an explanation on the not-guilty ruling.

A teen boy has been found not guilty of a felony after being accused of placing a fake bomb in a boys bathroom last fall at Middletown High School.

The 17-year-old junior was charged with inducing panic, a second-degree felony, when he was spotted on camera with a broken cell phone charger he accidently left in the bathroom, according to his attorney Jonathan Fox.

On Sept 28, an unidentified device, described by the Butler County Bomb Squad as a hoax device, was located near a urinal, and the school was evacuated and dismissed early.

Fox said the the incident was an overreaction, and a “travesty.”

The teen accidently left a cell phone charger with the cover that had been broken off on the sink. He too was evacuated with the students and didn’t realize the charger was missing until later when looking in his backpack, Fox said.

The charger fell on the floor and was found by someone that prompted the response by school administrators and law enforcement.

“This is a good kid. Never been in trouble before. They charged him with a felony,” the attorney said. “We fought this all the way through the school hearing, all the way through a full board hearing and finally juvenile court where we had a trial.”

On April 7, the teen was found not guilty in Butler County Juvenile Court by Judge Daniel Phillips following a bench trial.

“I thought the school just totally overreacted. This was a cell phone charger with a battery pack. The outside cover had broken off so it was just the internal stuff showing. If you look at it for two seconds, you know it is not a bomb. There were no explosives attached and a little digital readout that says how much time you have left,” Fox said.

The teen and his family were “adamant” that he did nothing wrong, the attorney said.

The cell phone charger was left in the bathroom when the teen put it down to dry his hands and forgot it, according to Fox.

The teen told officials it was his cell phone charger and testified at trial. He was suspended and expelled from school, “but at least he was vindicated at trial,” Fox said.

At the time of the incident, Mike Grimes, commander of the Butler County Sheriff’s Office bomb unit, said the device was made to look like a bomb.

He said an X-ray was taken of the device, which also was inspected remotely. Once no explosives were found, it was turned over to the Middletown Police Division.

Dan Wohler, Middletown Schools communications administrator, said Wednesday, “Middletown City School District followed all board approved policies and procedures as related to the student code of conduct.”

Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser said he will request more of an explanation of the not-guilty ruling from the judge.

“I am asking for findings of facts and conclusions of law from the judge to bring some clarity to this case that involved the evacuation of a school and a bomb squad,” Gmoser told the Journal-News.

Gmoser added his is perplexed by the decision of the court, given some of the testimony.

“I am concerned about the message that the result of this case might give to those that are engaged in pranks that can have serious and even deadly consequences from panic.”

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