Bail Lowered for Vt. Teen Accused of Plotting Mass Killing

A teenager accused of plotting a shooting massacre in Vermont's Rutland County was back in court Wednesday, for a bail review hearing that followed the dismissal of the most serious criminal charges against him.

"I think we all have concerns," said Chief Bill Humphries of the Fair Haven Police Department, after learning Jack Sawyer is now a big step closer to leaving jail.

The 18-year-old has been locked up since February, after a tipster called police to say Sawyer had just bought a gun and was mapping out a mass killing inside his old high school.

Police said they thwarted the crime before anyone was physically harmed.

The case quickly impacted state policy.

Vermont's Republican governor, Phil Scott, called it too close a call, and pointed to the alleged plot as a prime reason for signing new gun restrictions into law.

Sawyer had been facing several attempted murder charges, with the potential for life in prison without parole.

Those charges were all dropped after a Vermont Supreme Court ruling in his favor—leaving only misdemeanor charges against him.

The state's highest court essentially ruled that planning a crime isn’t the same thing as attempting one, meaning the evidence as presented likely didn't meet the legal threshold required for the attempted murder charges.

Sawyer's defense attorney, Kelly Green, argued Wednesday that bail should be lowered for her client, now that the felony charges were dismissed. The remaining misdemeanor accusations are for criminal threatening and carrying a weapon, which together carry a maximum punishment of three years in prison and cash fines.

"These charges are hanging by a thread," Green argued to Judge Zonay, referring to the remaining misdemeanors.

Green also said her client is not a risk to snub the court for future hearings.

"Jack has been cooperative with the judicial process — extremely cooperative," the defense attorney told the judge.

Zonay slashed the $100,000 bail that had been in place, reducing the bail amount to $10,000 cash.

Should Sawyer post bail, the judge ordered him out of Fair Haven all together, into mental health help, and under his dad's watch with a 24-7 in-home curfew.

That father, David Sawyer, wouldn't answer reporters' questions after the hearing about community safety concerns, but he did make promises to Rutland County State's Attorney Rose Kennedy.

In sworn testimony, David Sawyer responded to a line of questioning from Kennedy, telling her and the court that he has removed firearms from his home and will keep them out of the home and away from his son while the criminal case is pending.

Jack Sawyer was also served with what's called an "extreme risk protection order." It's a brand new legal tool, just authorized by Gov. Scott in large part because of his concerns over this very case.

The order bars Sawyer from handling guns.

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