Feds: South Burlington Student 'Admitted' Sending Email Threat | Off Message

Feds: South Burlington Student 'Admitted' Sending Email Threat


The Rebels scoreboard at South Burlington High School - FILE: MOLLY WALSH
  • File: Molly Walsh
  • The Rebels scoreboard at South Burlington High School
The South Burlington High School senior charged with threatening to kill students and staff last week "admitted" to police that he sent a threatening email, prosecutors wrote in a court filing ahead of his first court appearance.

Josiah Leach, 18, showed no emotion during the U.S. District Court hearing Monday afternoon in Burlington, at which he was assigned a public defender. Leach did not enter a plea and is scheduled to return to court on Thursday. He is being held without bail.

Authorities charged Leach with knowingly transmitting a threat via interstate commerce, which carries a five year maximum sentence. The teen, who is African American, allegedly made eight threats last week to kill students and staff in retaliation for the racially charged decision to drop the high school's Rebels nickname.

The February decision to drop the name has roiled the community. Critics say it's a reference to the Confederate South and slavery, while defenders say it's a benign tradition.

Authorities have not disclosed any evidence that Leach had access to weapons or took steps to carry out his alleged threats, which made reference to being "armed with knives and guns."

He also allegedly emailed a "murder list" naming several students and school staff members who would be killed and also released a video making similar threats. Leach's own name was on the list.

Police did not find any weapons inside Leach's home, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Drescher said during the hearing.

The threats led to several school lockdowns last week and a district-wide school cancellation Friday. The district is on spring break this week.

A "motion for detention" filed Monday provided a few new details into the investigation and into Leach's past. The teen has been arrested multiple times, including for a 2014 burglary in progress in Burlington, according to prosecutors. But Leach does not have any criminal convictions on his record, Drescher said in court.

Authorities, armed with "substantial" evidence, arrested Leach Friday at his home. During an interview, according to court filings, Leach lied and told authorities he'd destroyed cellphones "identified in the search warrant application." But police later found the devices in his bedroom.

During the same interview Leach "claimed that he did not intend to hurt anyone," prosecutors wrote. "The veracity of this claim is dubious, however, in light of other self-serving lies he made during the same interview."

A group of community members has organized a candlelight vigil for healing Wednesday evening at South Burlington High School.

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