A former ConVal high school student charged with making a school shooting threat has pleaded guilty to avoid potential state prison time.
Last November, 18-year old Anthony Wheeler posted a photo on snapchat of his friends with BB guns that appeared real, warning students not to go to school the next day.
The district canceled school. Wheeler was expelled, arrested and charged with multiple felonies. He spent nearly three months in Valley Street jail.
Wheeler’s case was scheduled for a trial this month, but after negotiations with police and the ConVal school district, the state dropped the most serious charges.
Wheeler pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor of criminal threatening. He will avoid prison but faces imprisonment and a fine if he commits a new crime in the next five years.
His deal also requires a mental health assessment, prohibits him from possessing fire arms and going within 300 feet of any ConVal district schools, and requires him to write a letter of apology to the ConVal district within a month.
“This is a warning. This is a societal statement to you that this behavior is totally unacceptable,” Judge Dave Anderson told him. “You’ll have this hanging over your head for five years.”
Wheeler’s attorney, Justin Shepherd, said Wheeler had a strong case, but a plea deal was safer.
“If the jury comes back with one felony indictment, your life is over,” Shepherd said. “You would be a fool to roll the dice and risk having a felony indictment with an 18-year old.”
Wheeler said he regretted the incident, which started as a joke.
“I understand that it cannot be taken as a joke. I understand that what I did scared many people and caused inconvenience for many others.”
Wheeler says he plans to live with family in Lowell, Massachusetts, and work as a landscaper.