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Teen Arrests Caused By ‘Hysteria’

May 29, 1998

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) _ Federal prosecutors dropped conspiracy charges Friday against two high school seniors accused of plotting to blow up their graduation ceremony.

U.S. Attorney William Wilmoth said only that there were ``new developments″ in the case. But a lawyer for the teens said that the charges resulted from a misunderstanding and that the two were victims of school-violence ``hysteria″ in the wake of the Springfield, Ore., shootings.

Jeremy Dotson and Jesse Shingleton, both 18, were arrested and jailed shortly before graduation ceremonies were to take place Sunday at St. Marys High School.

``Apparently, Mr. Shingleton made some sort of remark about graduation, a reference to it being `hot,′ which could mean anything,″ defense attorney Bill Kiger said. ``Somebody took that out of context or made a mountain out of a molehill and there was a lot of unnecessary hysteria. These boys couldn’t have made a bomb if they wanted to.″

Word of the alleged plot prompted school officials to postpone the graduation to Thursday. Dotson and Shingleton missed the ceremony, spending five days in jail until their release Friday.

The charges came three days after 15-year-old Kip Kinkel was arrested in Oregon and accused of killing his parents and two classmates.

``I’m sure that people are aware of things going on in other parts of the country, and I don’t blame anyone for being cautious,″ Kiger said. ``But there’s a big difference between being cautious and rushing headlong and putting people in jail when they have nothing in their possession or within their access that they could use to commit an offense.″

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