Minnesota Student Pleads Guilty to Making Terroristic Threats

A St. Paul Harding High School student pleaded guilty Tuesday to making terroristic threats, four days after school officials found a notebook that contained threats against black classmates.

Andrew Thomas Deutsch, 16, who is white, claimed in court that he had decided not to follow through on the threats. But he admitted he had discussed his plans with a friend, prosecutors said.

``I doubt we'll ever know how serious he was,'' Susan Gaertner, the Ramsey County attorney, said in an interview. ''... It's hard to know what, if anything, would have pushed him over the edge to actually carry it out.''

Police Chief John Harrington said at a news conference that the alleged threats against black students didn't include specific names, and that no weapons were found.

The threats initially were found in a planner that didn't carry any student's name, authorities said. Investigators determined the notebook belonged to Deutsch, and that he had told a friend he planned to bring guns to school and shoot staff members and students. He also threatened to kill his friend if he didn't participate, Gaertner said.

Deutsch also indicated at some point that he planned to shoot the school's police liaison officer to get his gun and ammunition, Gaertner said.

He also acknowledged in court that he had gone target shooting with an uncle on Saturday and had fired a .22-caliber rifle. Gaertner said she had no reason to doubt that Deutsch could have obtained firearms if he had decided to carry out his threats.

St. Paul Schools Superintendent Patricia Harvey said letters were sent home to students' parents, and that the school was safe. Classes continued Tuesday.

``I want you to know that our staff responded in the proper manner by immediately enacting our threat-assessment plan, notifying police and cooperating with the police investigation,'' Harding Principal Deb Henton wrote.

``While this incident is alarming, it is important for you to know that our school is safe. The safety of our students is a top priority and we have plans and procures in place to maintain a secure learning environment,'' she wrote.

The charge against Deutsch, a juvenile, is a felony. In Minnesota, juvenile court proceedings are public when a juvenile who is 16 years old or older is charged with a felony, prosecutors said.

District Judge John Van De North ordered Deutsch to undergo a psychiatric evaluation and set an Oct. 19 sentencing hearing. Deutsch remained in custody Tuesday.

Gaertner said her office will make a sentencing recommendation after it reviews all the information on the case. She said the judge has wide latitude to decide what's appropriate, but one option would be placement in a secure juvenile facility. She said the court will have jurisdiction over Deutsch only until he turns 19.

``He's obviously very troubled, very angry, and very full of hate,'' she said. ``And in the interest of public safety those issues should be addressed.''

Gaertner praised school officials and police for taking the threats seriously. She said the response might not have been so strong a decade ago, before the shooting in 1999 at Columbine High School in Colorado and last year at Rocori High School in Cold Spring.

``We might have avoided another Columbine by the school's prompt action,'' she said, ``or nothing may ever have come of this young man's hatred and anger.''