Staring down a criminal defense attorney was not what Jim Platt thought he'd be doing several hours a week because of something his teenage son said on Snapchat.
“It was just a horrific joke, it should’ve never been said,” Platt said.
Platt described it as out of character for his son. He said the 16-year-old is an Eagle Scout and a fun kid to be around.
However, in an online conversation with five other students in November of 2019, Platt’s son threatened to do serious harm to the assistant principal of Flushing High School.
“He was the only one of six from the Snapchat that they decided to put charges against, and part of that is because he had access to my guns. And they had to take it very seriously, I got that,” Platt said.
His son was charged with a threat of terrorism and malicious use of a telecommunications service. The first crime is a felony punishable by up to 20 years, while the second is a misdemeanor of up to six months.
Defense Attorney Nicholas Robinson said Platt had to surrender 12 of his firearms to authorities.
“The threats were related to those firearms,” Robinson said.
Flushing High School Principal Jason Melynchek said when a threat occurs, a student is immediately removed from school and ordered to undergo a risk assessment by a health provider.
“It may be weeks or months before a professional feels comfortable saying this student is safe and not a threat to the school environment,” Melynchek said.
In this incident, the teen was expelled from Flushing High School and won't be coming back.
As a result, Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton brought a powerful message to the school about the severity of making threats on social media.
“I want to go into the schools and tell the kids what the problem is, tell them about the jeopardy they are putting themselves into,” Leyton said.
Leyton said ever since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, every threat must be taken seriously. When a threat occurs, investigators look in to a student's history.
“Has he been a problem in the school before? Has he been getting in fights? Is he a bully? Is he doing his homework? All these factors play a role in to whether or not we are going to charge,” Leyton said.
Leyton said students need to understand that severe consequences are on the line for anything you say online or through an app.
“It's not a joke. It's not funny. This is serious business. You're putting your liberty in jeopardy. You actually could get locked up,” Leyton said.
Leyton said he plans to continue his school talks in every middle and high school in the county.
The entire ordeal has been hard on the teen’s father, both emotionally and physically. He had to take a leave of absence from work to help his son. The teen now goes to therapy and will finish his high school career online. He is no longer allowed to step foot in Flushing High School.
“My message to kids and even to adults, if you wouldn't want your mother looking over your shoulder at what you're texting or what you're putting into text, then you don't send it,” Platt said.
All of the teen's charges have been reduced to misdemeanors, to which he agreed to plead guilty in family court on Feb. 24.
The teen was sentenced to six months probation on Feb. 25. As part of his probation, he can't be around firearms.