Roy High student sentenced to 6 months in plot to bomb schoo

Joshua Hoggan claims he was only trying to raise awareness about safety

Published: Tuesday, April 17 2012 12:00 p.m. MDT

Roy High School student Joshua Hoggan, right, leaves court in Ogden April 4, 2012 with his attorney Scott Nickle. Hoggan, 16, pleaded guilty Tuesday to a plot to bomb the high school during an assembly and was sentenced to just six months of "secure confinement."

Joe DeLuca, Deseret News

OGDEN — Joshua Hoggan claims he never intended to actually set off a bomb at Roy High School.

The 16-year-old, who admits being fascinated with the Columbine shootings, told a judge Tuesday that his bombing plot was just an attempt to bring attention to a lack of security at the school.

"My initial goal was awareness," Hoggan told 2nd District Juvenile Judge Janice Frost. "My end goal was never to blow up the school. ... I'm starting to understand what I did was the wrong way to go about it."

Frost sentenced Hoggan to just six months in a youth prison in Ogden, saying he made many people feel truly threatened.

Roy High School Principal Gina Butters confirmed that many students and faculty are still affected by Hoggan's elaborate plot.

"I saw the legitimate fear and paranoia on the faces of students," she said. "We've had a number of students leave Roy High School."

Butters said she still struggles to sleep at night. Three teachers have told her they are seeking new positions elsewhere because they feel unsafe. The principal still hears from parents every time the school plans an assembly, which are common in the weeks leading up to the end of the school year.

"It caused a really black, negative stigma to Roy High that I'm really saddened about," she said.

Hoggan pleaded guilty in juvenile court Tuesday to use of a weapon of mass destruction, a first-degree felony, as part of a plea bargain. Prosecutors agreed to recommend the six-month sentence in exchange for his plea and withdrew their motion to certify the teenager as an adult.

He and co-defendant Dallin Todd Morgan, 18, were arrested in January after police say they developed an elaborate plan to bomb the high school during an assembly, targeting many students, because they "wanted revenge on the world." Hoggan even told a friend to stay home from school if he ever sent her a text message warning her to stay away.

Frost told Hoggan many people may never regain a full sense of security.

"We never act in isolation," the judge said. "Our lives affect many people. Unfortunately there will be people who will carry the burden of fear and concern. Every time they hear about a school or mall shooting, they will feel anxiety."

She said Hoggan's obsession with the vulnerabilities of the school that he felt were not addressed grew to the point that it became dangerous and he considered setting off a bomb at the school.

"It seems to me that would have been a very real next step for you if this had not garnered the desired response and that's a frightening thing," the judge said.

Hoggan's attorney, Scott Nickle, said the case could be traced back to a 2010 article his client wrote in the school newspaper about security and safety at the school. Hoggan felt there were a lot of concerns that weren't being addressed by teachers and administrators.

"Josh felt invalidated so he made a last-ditch attempt to increase awareness," Nickle said of the bomb plot. "Josh realizes the conduct was inappropriate. He thought what he was doing was raising awareness."

The front-page story was about mass killings at schools such as Columbine and Virginia Tech. Hoggan reported on vulnerable rooms at Roy High School and said the school was "definitely lacking on proactive, preventative security measures."

Hoggan's father, Ron Hoggan, said his son had unsuccessfully tried to raise the topic of school safety with administrators.

"My big thing is there was lots of indicators given to lots of individuals. If attention would have been paid to what he was trying to project, this could have been avoided," he said. "If you're not willing to talk to kids when they have fears, then you do invalidate them."

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