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Student sentenced in anthrax hoax

January 18, 2002

Student sentenced in anthrax hoax



By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

kimy@herald-mail.com

A Smithsburg High School student who last fall took an envelope of baking soda to school, alarming students and school officials, received probation in juvenile court Wednesday.

"It was intended as a joke," Assistant Washington County State's Attorney Steve Kessell said.

The student put baking soda in an envelope and left it on a desk near a stairwell, Kessell said. The 16-year-old took his friend to see it, and the friend then rushed to tell his brother.

The brothers told a teacher before the 16-year-old could stop them, Kessell said.

"It just snowballed," Kessell said.

Authorities sealed off the area at the school but it wasn't evacuated.

The student appeared remorseful during his court appearance, Kessell said.

"He has no priors and he's doing well in school," Kessell said.

If the incident had happened a year ago, the student likely wouldn't be facing such a penalty, he said.

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The post-Sept. 11 climate changed that, Kessell said.

The terrorist attacks in New York and Washington were followed by instances of anthrax being sent through the mail. The anthrax threat prompted a number of incidents across the country in which white, powdery substances were mailed to people or placed in common areas where they would be found. In most cases, the substances were not anthrax.

The teenager's probation was open-ended and will be re-evaluated periodically, Kessell said.

The student also will have to attend the Evening High School, perform community service and attend a victim awareness seminar.

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