LEWISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A judge ruled Thursday that three teenagers will be tried as adults in a rock-throwing incident last summer that severely injured an Ohio school teacher, who attended the hearing wearing a plastic helmet to protect her still healing head.
Mental health professionals testified in support of the defense that the cases should be moved to juvenile court. Though 18 now, the defendants were 17 last July when a rock was dropped from an Interstate 80 overpass and crushed the head of Sharon Budd of Uniontown, Ohio.
Judge Michael Sholley rejected the defense arguments. If not for modern medicine, he said, the three would probably have been facing some sort of homicide charges instead of aggravated assault.
Budd was surrounded by friends and supporters at the hearing, which included testimony by a psychotherapist and two psychologists.
Defense attorneys for Keefer McGee, Dylan Lahr and Tyler Porter argued they should not be in adult court and that therapy and other measures could help rehabilitate them.
A fourth defendant, Brett Lahr, who was 18 at the time, began serving jail time earlier this month even though Union County Judge Michael Sholley hasn’t yet accepted his no contest plea to a conspiracy charge. The prosecutor said that could happen in June.
Budd, who was a middle school language arts teacher, attended the hearing with her husband, Randy Budd.
He wanted the cases kept in adult court.
“No question in my mind,” Randy Budd said before the hearing. “Seventeen, 18 years old, to be throwing rocks, big rocks, from overpasses into oncoming traffic. I would be irritated, mad, if it went any other way.”
The four were arrested shortly after the nearly 5-pound rock crashed through the windshield of the vehicle in which the Budds had been riding. They were driving through Pennsylvania, late at night, on their way to see a show in New York.
Sharon Budd has required intensive treatment and a series of surgeries to address severe brain injuries and massive damage to her skull.
During a preliminary hearing in August, McGee testified for the prosecution that he and the other three planned to do some damage but did not anticipate they would cause the injuries that Sharon Budd suffered.
Union County District Attorney Pete Johnson said that despite the juvenile court request, McGee is continuing to cooperate with prosecutors.
In court records, Porter has been quoted as saying he dropped a rock from the overpass above Interstate 80 but did not hit anything, but that Dylan Lahr dropped a rock that did strike a vehicle.
“It’s our position that Tyler Porter didn’t use the rock that he used with that intent,” said his lawyer, Peter Campana. “And whatever intent Mr. Lahr may have had, Tyler did not share it with him, as far as using that rock to seriously injury someone.”
The defendants face charges of aggravated assault, conspiracy, trespassing, propelling missiles into occupied vehicles, agricultural vandalism and reckless endangerment.