A preliminary hearing was continued last Thursday for Zachary Fraley, the Homer High School student charged with first-degree terroristic threatening, a felony, for allegedly placing a bomb-like device at the high school that caused an evacuation May 16.
Fraley, 18, appeared before Judge Margaret Murphy at the Homer Courthouse with about a dozen family and friends supporting him. Fraley had been released on $1,000 bail at his first hearing on May 17. His Soldotna lawyer, Kenneth Cole, entered a plea of not guilty on his behalf then. Under court rules for felony charges, the grand jury must deliver an indictment within 20 days for a defendant not in custody unless a preliminary hearing is held.
Appearing telephonically, Cole said he was still waiting for discovery, that is, more information on the case. Cole said the state has made an offer and he and his client needed time to review it. Cole and the prosecutor, assistant district attorney Amanda Browning, did not discuss in court the terms of a plea deal. Cole and Browning also did not return phone calls requesting more information on the possible deal.
Cole agreed to waive rules requiring an indictment and to continue the preliminary hearing to 3:30 p.m. June 27. Cole also agreed to suspend the calendar in regard to speedy trial rules.
The evacuation happened about 8:55 a.m. May 16 after Homer High School Principal Allan Gee found a suspicious device that appeared to be a bomb in the B-wing stairwell. Following Kenai Peninsula Borough School District protocols, Gee ordered an evacuation of the school. The building was safely evacuated and students and staff returned to class after Homer Police cleared the building. Police inspected the suspicious device and determined it was not dangerous.
In a letter sent to parents at the end of the school year, Gee said after the evacuation a teacher aide said she had found the device and, thinking it was a science experiment, picked it up and moved it to a corner of the stairwell. She didn’t think it was a bomb.
In a photo released by Homer Police of the suspicious device, the fake bomb is made of a can about 6-inches tall with what appears to be a battery taped to it.
At a court hearing May 17, Gee said Fraley admitted that he had put the fake bomb in the stairwell. Fraley said he and another student, a 16-year-old boy, had been playing pranks on each other. Police arrested Fraley and the boy, and the boy was referred to the Alaska Division of Juvenile Justice, where proceedings are confidential.
Fraley was charged under a section of the statute that defines first-degree terroristic threatening “as knowingly sent or delivered a bacteriological, biological, chemical or radiological substance or an imitation bacteriological, biological, chemical or radiological substance and as a result caused evacuation of a building, public place or area, business premises, or mode of public transportation.”