A sheriff's department in Maine says it may have stopped a plot to carry out a school shooting, only to have their suspect out on bail hours later, paying just $60 bail.
"I initially thought that amount seemed low, based on the seriousness of the incident," said Sagadahoc County Sheriff Joel Merry.
Darren Lilly, 23, of Bowdoinham, was arrested last month and charged with terrorizing with a dangerous weapon. Sheriff Merry said multiple people reported concerns about Lilly's behavior, claiming that he threatened to "shoot up" Central Maine Community College in Auburn. Investigators found he had recently purchased a semi-automatic weapon, concealed in a violin case.
U.S. & World
"These kinds of cases must be taken serious," said Sheriff Merry.
They took Lilly into custody and confiscated about one dozen firearms, including a sawed off shotgun.
Hours later, Lilly paid a $60 fine and was released on $1,000 unsecured bail -- conditions determined by a bail commissioner who could not comment on the case.
"We were surprised he was out so quickly," said Sheriff Merry.
Also surprised was the president of Central Maine Community College.
"I don't think $60 was really enough," said President Scott Knapp, who ordered increased police presence on campus after the threat.
But Lilly's defense attorney, Verne Paradie, felt the bail conditions were appropriate.
"He absolutely denies making the threats," said Paradie. "We have a young man with a 40 hour a week job, and has no criminal history."
During Lilly's initial court appearance Tuesday, prosecutors asked Judge Joseph Field to overrule the bail commissioner, and raise the cash amount to $1,000.
"I don't know how his bail was set, but for the charges involved, it's surprisingly low," said Field, ordering Lilly to pay $500 cash and enroll in Maine Pretrial Services.
The felony terrorizing charge is punishable by up to five years in prison. Lilly did not have to enter a plea Tuesday, but his lawyer says they will fight the charges.
Merry said the case highlights questions about how the bail system might be improved.
"I do think we are now at a point in time where we should look at other options," said Merry. "Maybe should consider standardized or valid risk assessments as opposed to straight cash bail, and provide our judicial system with more information before making a decision about what bail should be."