Appeals court blocks release of man who threatened school

By Ed White

Associated Press Writer

DETROIT (AP) -- The Michigan appeals court on Wednesday blocked the release of a prisoner who plotted a massacre at his Macomb County high school, saying the parole board abused its discretion and overlooked an ongoing threat to the public.

The appeals court agreed with a 2009 ruling by a judge who had reversed the board's decision to release Andrew Osantowski after a minimum sentence of 4 1/2 years in jail and prison.

As a teenager in 2004, Osantowski sent messages to an Internet chat room saying he might kill fellow students at Chippewa Valley High School near Mount Clemens. Weapons, ammunition and bomb-making paraphernalia were found at his home.

Osantowski, now 23, was convicted of threatening an act of terrorism, using a computer to threaten terrorism as well as weapon charges.

The parole board found he would not be a risk to the public after serving the minimum sentence. The appeals court agreed Osantowski had an excellent work record in prison and had participated in numerous programs and therapy.

But the court said the board relied too much on conduct. It said a Department of Corrections assessment showed troubling scores for criminal thinking, mental health and other categories.

"They refute that there could be any 'reasonable assurance' that defendant would not 'become a menace to society or to the public safety,'" appeals court judges Patrick Meter, Deborah Servitto and Jane Beckering said, citing Michigan law.

The court's decision was unusual because the parole board generally has broad discretion to release inmates.

"It's not something we see on even an irregular basis. We still contend the parole board acted accordingly," said John Cordell, a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Corrections.

Osantowski's lawyer, Marla McCowan, said she was disappointed and declined further comment.

Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith, who went to court to stop Osantowski's release, could not be immediately reached.

The dispute lasted more than a year, and Osantowski now has served more than 5 1/2 years in custody. His maximum sentence is 22 years.

"It's likely the parole board could review him again in very short order," Cordell said.

Published: Fri, Jun 18, 2010

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