SALT LAKE CITY — Attorneys for a St. George teenager accused of bringing a homemade backpack bomb to school in March want a judge to toss the case, saying the charges are too hefty.
The admission of Martin Farnsworth, 16, to police that he "kind of a little bit" intended to hurt others isn't strong enough to support a charge of attempted murder, attorney Ed Flint argues in court filings, adding that the device the teen is accused of fashioning doesn't fit the definition of a weapon of mass destruction.
"They're both the wrong charges," he said.
His client faces one count of using a weapon of mass destruction in 5th District Court in addition to the attempted murder charge. Both are first-degree felonies and a conviction carries a possible sentence of up to life in prison.
Deputy Washington County attorney Angela Adams said she believes the charges will stand.
"We're confident the judge wouldn't grant that, because the court has already found probable cause after a lengthy hearing," she said.
A juvenile court judge ordered the teen to face the charges as an adult in July after determining there was enough evidence for the case to go to trial.
Flint echoed previous testimony from a bomb expert who said the device could have caused a fire but would not have exploded. Flint said the materials in the backpack — shotgun powder and pellets, plus petroleum and matches — do not amount to a weapon of mass destruction.
He noted his client had been bullied and he has autism spectrum disorder, and believes employees at the teenager's school failed to spot the signs and evaluate him.
"Nobody tested him for autism until after he was in custody," Flint said.
A Washington School District spokesman said educators aren't qualified to diagnose students, and their role is to help parents find the best learning tools after a doctor diagnoses their children.8 comments on this story
No injuries were reported, but Pine View High School was evacuated on March 8 after students discovered the smoking backpack that investigators say Farnsworth put together and left near a vending machine. A trial is set for March 2019.
The teen also has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge in juvenile court after police say he painted "ISIS is comi--" on a Hurricane High School wall, Adams said. A second misdemeanor count he faced for allegedly cutting up an American flag there and replacing it with a makeshift ISIS flag has been dismissed.