A Park City High School student appeared in Third District Juvenile Court Friday morning and admitted that he discharged pepper spray in a school lecture hall last month in order to disrupt a meeting organized by a conservative student group.
The youth entered into a plea in abeyance agreement with the court.
The student was 17 years old at the time of the incident. He turned 18 in early May, and said he plans to attend college this August.
The youth admitted to a Count of Criminal Mischief, which was lowered from a second-degree offense to a third—also, three counts of Assault—Substantial Risk of Bodily Injury—and one count of Disruption to a Meeting.
If he complies with the terms of the Plea in Abeyance, the charges will be expunged.
On April 1st, personnel from the Park City Fire Department were dispatched to the High School, after up to 19 people reported having difficulty breathing and feeling nauseous.
A meeting that day was being held by a student group, Turning Point USA. On Friday, the youth admitted he wanted to disrupt the meeting and the scheduled appearance of a speaker, Will Witt. He said he didn’t feel the event was safe for the people at his school.
Witt is identified online as a speaker and staff member for the conservative video site, “PragerU.”
The youth said he was truly sorry and added he did not intend or anticipate the consequences of his actions. In conversation with Judge Elizabeth Knight, he said that his sister advised him he should have taken some other action, like writing a letter to the Park Record.
The judge commended the sister’s advice and said he could have asked the school to also invite an opposing speaker.
The judge said that shutting down speech a person doesn’t agree with is a danger we face in society today.
Judge Knight ordered the teenager to serve 100 hours of Community Service; write an essay on the topic of civility; and send a letter of apology to the Park City police officer who responded to the incident. There is also a possibility of mediation with the victims, but Deputy Summit County Prosecutor Patricia Cassell said they haven’t heard any interest at this point.
A review hearing for the teenager is set for early August.
The youth’s attorney, Patricia Cuendig and the County Attorney’s office declined to make any further comment after the hearing.