Vermont looks at tightening law around shooting plot case

April 16, 2018

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Vermont lawmakers will start to work Tuesday to revise a law that drove the state Supreme Court to rule that a teenager accused of planning a massive shooting at his former high school should not be kept in jail.

Jack Sawyer, 18, has pleaded not guilty to attempted aggravated murder and other charges. Prosecutors say Sawyer, who kept a diary called “Journal of an Active Shooter,” made detailed plans for a shooting at Fair Haven Union High School in which his goal was to kill more people than in any other school shooting.

The court ruled last week that “preparation alone” does not prove an attempt. The ruling prompted Republican Gov. Phil Scott to urge lawmakers to close “existing loopholes” related to the law of attempt and establish a domestic terrorism statute.

“The mere possibility that someone with a clear intent to murder innocent children could be back on the street shows there is an unacceptable loophole in our current criminal law,” said Scott, changed his stance on gun restrictions after reading the affidavit in the Sawyer case.

He said he wants the changes made before April 23, when students at Fair Haven Union High School — the target of Sawyer’s alleged plot — return from vacation, although they could not be applied retroactively to the Sawyer case.

The chairs of the Senate and House judiciary committees said Monday that they will take up “attempt” language Tuesday. But Sen. Richard Sears, chair of the Senate panel, said it would be difficult to have a domestic terrorism bill signed by the governor by April 23.

“My first priority is the attempts bill,” he said.

Scott said he has instructed the Department of Public Safety and all agencies to do everything they can to help the Rutland County state’s attorney hold Sawyer accountable and support the school and community with more law enforcement.

State’s attorney Rose Kennedy obtained an extreme risk protection order barring Sawyer from possessing firearms. Sawyer was still being held at the Marble Valley Correctional Facility in Rutland; a court hearing is scheduled for April 27.

Scott said he was also concerned about “the brave young woman” who reported Sawyer.

Angela McDevitt, 17, attended a treatment facility in Maine with Sawyer. She turned over to authorities Facebook messages from him in which he discussed the alleged plot.

Her mother, Dina McDevitt, told the Poughkeepsie Journal her daughter has been “anxious” about his possible release.

“I believe he is a real threat,” Dina McDevitt said.

Update hourly