A grand jury indicted two Marshfield teenagers yesterday on charges of plotting a Columbine-style attack on students and teachers at their high school. The indictment ensures that the younger of the two will no longer be treated as a juvenile in criminal proceedings.
Tobin Kerns, 16, was initially charged in Juvenile Court. His name was public only because his father identified him as the suspect in the case and said that his son was not guilty of the charges he faced.
Yesterday the Plymouth district attorney's office became the first law enforcement agency to publicly identify Kerns as one of the two suspects. The office said he was indicted as a youthful offender on charges of conspiracy to commit murder, promotion of anarchy, and threatening to use deadly weapons at a school.
Under state law, a 16-year-old must first be charged as a juvenile before being rearraigned as a youthful offender.
''He's now being treated as an adult," said Frank Middleton, first assistant district attorney.
Kerns was arrested at his home Sept. 17 and has been in custody at a youth detention facility in Taunton. His father, Ben Kerns of Marshfield, did not return calls seeking comment last night.
Arraignment dates on the indictment have not been set for the two teenagers, according to a press release from Plymouth District Attorney Timothy J. Cruz.
The other defendant, Joseph T. Nee, 18, was indicted on the same charges: conspiracy to commit murder, promotion of anarchy, and threatening to use deadly weapons at a school.
Nee was arrested Oct. 18 at Marshfield High School and pleaded not guilty to the charges at an arraignment. At a dangerousness hearing Thursday, Plymouth District Court Judge Joseph R. Welch ordered that Nee be held without bail at the Plymouth County House of Correction.
Nee's lawyer, Thomas Drechsler of Boston, said after the indictment was announced that his client is being used as a scapegoat by the Marshfield police.
''Joe was promised confidentiality, that he was a witness and not subject of the investigation," Drechsler said in a telephone interview. ''They used him and got the information, which they were too incompetent to get on their own. They seek to use his own information against him and hold him without bail."
Drechsler said he wants the State Police to take over the investigation.
A dispatcher at the Marshfield police station said last night that no one was available to comment on Drechsler's statements.
According to testimony by Marshfield police at Nee's dangerousness hearing Thursday, Nee and two other students went to the police station Sept. 16 and reported that Kerns planned to kill students and staff at Marshfield High in April, on the anniversary of the 1999 shootings at Columbine High school in Colorado.
The next day, police arrested Kerns and searched his home, according to Ben Kerns.
Police testified that after authorities announced Oct. 6 that a juvenile had been arrested and charged with the plot, more witnesses came forward, providing evidence that led to the arrest of Nee earlier this week.
Emily Sweeney can be reached at email@example.com.