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Jackson County teen pleads guilty in school bomb scare

Sentencing set Feb. 14 for 16-year-old

POSTED: February 12, 2008 5:03 a.m.

JEFFERSON ­-- The teenager accused of bringing a homemade bomb to Jackson County Comprehensive High faces sentencing Feb. 14 after he pleaded guilty Friday morning.

Andrew Thomas Criswell, 16, will serve between three and 45 years in prison after pleading guilty to charges of possession of a destructive device, false imprisonment and three counts of terroristic threats, Piedmont Judicial Circuit District Attorney Richard K. Bridgeman announced Friday. The teen had been scheduled for trial Monday.

Sentencing is set for 9 a.m. Feb. 14 in Jackson County Superior Court before Judge Joseph H. Booth.
Jefferson Police Chief Joseph W. Wirthman said depending on the sentence, Criswell's case may act as a deterrent to the recent rash of bomb threats in Jackson County.

"Let's see what the sentence is first, but I hope so," Wirthman said.

Criswell, a Pendergrass resident, entered the school's front office April 11, 2007, with a homemade, battery-powered bomb strapped to his body. All 1,700 students and faculty were evacuated while Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Jackson County Sheriff's Office negotiators talked to the boy, who then was 15. He eventually gave up the bomb after Sheriff Stan Evans agreed to try and help the boy's sick relatives.

His case was transferred from juvenile to superior court because a judge said Criswell could not get the mental treatment he needed under care of the juvenile court.

Jackson County officials have been extra cautious since April, especially after a teenager allegedly called in a bomb threat in October that caused the evacuation of all 17 schools in the Jackson County, Jefferson and Commerce school systems. The student will be tried as an adult, as well, Bridgeman said.

In December, an evening janitor at Jackson County High found a circuit board with wires and batteries in the school and called the authorities. The Georgia Bureau of Investigations exploded the device, which turned out to be a student's science project.

The student had left if at school and not meant any harm, Wirthman said. He made an A on the project, Wirthman added.


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