Defense in Pine View bombing case says Washington County School District failed teen

Martin Farnsworth, 16, of Hurricane, appears in district court via video conference for his initial appearance, St. George, Utah, July 31, 2018 | File photo via Utah court pool, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The defense for Martin Farnsworth, the teen accused of bringing a homemade bomb to Pine View High School earlier this year, is putting some of the blame on the Washington County School District.

Attorney Edward Flint argues a case in St. George, Utah, Aug. 28, 2017 | File photo via Utah court pool, St. George News

Defense attorney Edward Flint told St. George News the school district failed to find out that Farnsworth had autism spectrum disorder, which he said is a legal requirement through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Because Farnsworth’s teachers and school administrators didn’t have him tested for a mental or emotional disorder because of his “quirks,” Flint said Farnsworth didn’t receive enough resources to help his autism.

“I’m not saying the school district built an incendiary device and took it to school and tried to ignite it,” Flint said. “But they had a duty to find out if he had autism, and they failed in that duty.”

Because the school district “utterly failed,” Flint said there is grounds for legal action to be filed against school officials.

Farnsworth, 16, is scheduled to stand trial in March on charges of attempted murder and using a weapon of mass destruction. He allegedly brought a homemade bomb to Pine View High School on March 5. The bomb never detonated and no one was injured, but the incident caused the entire school to be evacuated.

Farnsworth also is accused of vandalizing Hurricane High School Feb. 15 by painting “ISIS is comi” and raising a flag for the Islamic State outside the school.

Flint said the Washington County School District ignored Farnsworth’s problems instead of making sure he was receiving the help he needed, especially when he was being bullied at Hurricane High School. Farnsworth wasn’t diagnosed with autism until after he was charged with bringing the bomb to school.

Read more: Defense’s witness says autism, bullying played part in bomb scare case

“Had (the school district) tested him for autism a couple of years ago, maybe they could have directed him into special education and made sure the family got him in to see medical professionals,” Flint said. “Perhaps this could have been averted.”

The regional bomb squad, operated out of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, loads two robots into its trailer after being used during an investigation into a bomb scare at Pine View High School, St. George, Utah, March 5, 2018 | File photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

If the Farnsworth family doesn’t want to file a lawsuit against the Washington County School District for not getting Farnsworth tested for autism, Flint said he has experience with the IDEA Act and he might bring that action against the school district himself.

“There’s no attorney fees involved if I win, which makes me reluctant to spend that kind of time and effort on something like this, but clearly, Washington County (School District) should have done something,” Flint said.

Steve Dunham, a spokesman for the Washington County School District, said it’s not the responsibility of teachers or the school district to be on the lookout for every warning sign of a mental disability in all of their students.

“Typically, parents come to us after they’ve received a medical diagnosis,” Dunham said. “And then we’ll administer the test to see what the children qualify for and what the services they’re eligible for under the IDEA Act.”

There are occasions when a teacher may report a student’s warning signs to parents, but those circumstances are much more rare, Dunham said.

“Our license is to educate; we don’t have a license to diagnose a child with autism or with any disability,” Dunham said.

Pine View High School students are evacuated to the football field as police investigated a bomb scare inside the school and swept the parking lot as a precaution, St. George, Utah, March 5, 2018 | File photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Flint also filed a motion Monday to dismiss Farnsworth’s charges for attempted murder and possessing a weapon of mass destruction. In the motion, Flint argued that Farnsworth didn’t want to kill anyone; he only wanted to hurt his fellow students.

Read more: ‘If someone got hurt, I probably wouldn’t care’; Teen charged with attempted murder in Pine View High bomb scare

Flint also argued in the motion that the device that Farnsworth allegedly placed in the school could not be considered a weapon of mass destruction because “the ‘device’ at issue was incapable of actual explosion, and it is unknown if the device could have even started a fire, as allegedly constructed and deployed.”

With the motion, Flint said he’s seeking lesser charges for Farnsworth that would fit better with what actually happened, like a charge for using an incendiary device. Without naming any specific names, he compared the prosecutors in Farnsworth’s case to former President George W. Bush’s false claims of weapons of mass destruction before invading Iraq in 2003.

“Apparently, we haven’t learned anything from (Bush),” Flint said. “This is the same thing. They’re trying to make this kid out to be an ISIS terrorist and implicitly demonizing him because he’s autistic.”

Deputy Washington County Attorney Angela Adams was not available to comment on the new motion filed Monday.

Email: sricks@stgnews.com

Twitter:  @STGnews | @SpencerRicks

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

 

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20 Comments

  • Utahguns November 12, 2018 at 8:18 pm

    Really? Blaming the school district?
    And…
    “the device that Farnsworth allegedly placed in the school could not be considered a weapon of mass destruction because “the ‘device’ at issue was incapable of actual explosion, and it is unknown if the device could have even started a fire, as allegedly constructed and deployed.”

    It’s because Farnsworth was just a lousy bomb maker.

    Now you know why there’s so many attorney jokes.

  • stevenxfiles November 12, 2018 at 8:20 pm

    Two words “parental responsibility”. I hope that when this case is thrown out, this ambulance chaser is charged all court and administrative fees.

  • oldmanriver November 12, 2018 at 8:23 pm

    where in the hell were the parents during this teenagers life?

    • Comment November 13, 2018 at 10:55 pm

      Probably busy on their iphones browsing and making posts on facebook?

  • and November 12, 2018 at 8:25 pm

    LoL.. Trying to put the blame on the School District (AKA Taxpayers) for this. When do the parents take responsibility for the mental health of their children? Lots of autistic kids don’t build bombs and embrace terrorists. Why is the school responsible for mental health issues, especially when they are not mental health professionals?

  • Redbud November 12, 2018 at 9:14 pm

    This is a very typical example of how liberals look for ways to blame other people for their problems. No need for personal accountability, just find someone else to blame and start pointing fingers at them.

  • utahdiablo November 12, 2018 at 9:39 pm

    Well, he’ll get a education in the Prison system for sure..

  • KR567 November 12, 2018 at 10:40 pm

    LOL ! calm down folks this guy is just about to learn what life is all about !

  • mmsandie November 13, 2018 at 8:53 am

    You can almost mid diagnose autism..this kid knew what he was doing fromflag andsugn in hurricaine to bomb in Pine View..my relative was told they had autism and 15 yrs later.. Mayo Clinic said no it was Ed’s..so the child was labeled during his school years..
    lawyers blame anybody but their client.. how do they sleep at night.. I was a teacher and know many parents do not follow what their students are doing they had toomuch freetimeand computers can be good or bad..I,m sure teachers would have seen signs of autism because there is so much talked about it..
    Lawyers also bring up issues just to prolong the justice process..
    Look at the facts the students statements.

  • AnnieMated November 13, 2018 at 9:34 am

    The defense attorney is just doing the job he was hired to do…defend this kid. I doubt anyone will bring suit against the district, much less win. Teachers are TEACHERS, not mental health professionals. Anyone who has ever worked with a teacher knows that they have neither the time, training or inclination to diagnose a kid with any disease. The most they can do is inform the parents that their “Little Angel” is a terror in the classroom (and most likely everywhere else in society). I doubt very much that this ‘Little Angel” went through his entire educational life without some teacher raising concerns to the parents, who most likely ignored them. After all, what parent likes to hear that their ‘Little Angel” is a really a devil? I used to work for the distrcit and I can’t tell you how many times teachers concerns were ignored by parents who thought that they knew better. All that said, It’s not the parents fault and they should not be held accountable for his actions. He is practically an adult and old enough to know better. We can’t know what they did or didn’t do for this kid. Hindsight is always 20/20. You can always looks back and say ‘I should have done this better, differently, etc’ Parents or no parent, attention or no attention, help or no help, This kid did what he did and now he has to pay the piper. It’s no one else’s fault but his.

    Rant over. ♥

    • Comment November 13, 2018 at 10:58 pm

      Yeah, but, at the end of the day, how many people did this boy actually hurt or kill?

  • panda November 13, 2018 at 10:35 am

    I tried to post a comment and it cut off half of what I said – so I’m trying again.

    The school district is definitely partially to blame and failed this youth big time, but not for failing to diagnose. Diagnosis is not their job. Where the Washington County School District is failing hundreds of youth is in promoting a culture where bullying thrives. There are no actual trained counselors in our schools (oh wait actually there is one at Fossil Ridge, but that’s all) who can help victims of bullying find their voice or deal with the trauma of being bullied. The bullies are never punished because guess what bullies are good at lying and deflecting blame and they choose victims who are not as capable of defending themselves (like an autistic teen). The teachers are so busy trying to keep the bullies and brats in line that the quiet shy victims of bullying aren’t even noticed. My autistic son has been bullied in this district for almost 11 years and it’s always the same thing. The school tries to sweep the bullying under the rug and the bullies become more and more emboldened knowing there are never any consequences. The victims become less and less willing to report incidents knowing that nothing will be done and it might make there situation worse. There is no one at the schools that is capable or trained to do a proper investigation let alone provide support so that children and youth can feel safe. My son came home with his first black eye and broken tooth in 1st grade and the principal told me well since your son wouldn’t talk to us when we asked him about it we had to assume he was the problem. My son has had his neck cut open by fishing line while at school and one time even had to be rushed to the hospital for a severe allergic reaction from ant bites when a bully thought it was funny that he was afraid of red ants so used a stick to put dozens of red ants on my son’s arm. The number of incidents of bullying that my children have suffered in Washington County School District is honestly a crime and each time nothing is done and the schools just try to sweep it under the rug, emboldening the bullies to find more ways to torture those they view as weak
    The bullying culture in Washington County is criminal and it is sad that a young autistic youth eventually snapped after years of abuse from bullies. He lashed out in a moment of frustration and is being painted as a terrorist not to mention being tried as an adult after dozens of adults within his life and the school system failed to protect him and help him deal with the trauma he has suffered.

  • Carpe Diem November 13, 2018 at 2:10 pm

    Another crazy Attorney, maybe CNN should use this tact. “We are suing Donald J Trump, the Secret Service, and a half dozen other WH staff members, because it’s their responsibility to not hurt Abilio James Acosta’s feelings during his obviously manic episodes and he has the right to bog down every press conference as much as he wants cuz he works for CNN which used to be good in 1988, only a short 30 years ago…”

  • LunchboxHero November 13, 2018 at 4:31 pm

    I have a pending lawsuit with my high school for not properly diagnosing my tendinitis. I don’t want to count my chickens before they’re hatched, but I like my chances! I’ll let you all know how it goes.

    • Redbud November 13, 2018 at 4:53 pm

      Lunchbox, I could of sworn your tendinitis was from watching a little bit too much p-hub.

      • mesaman November 13, 2018 at 9:02 pm

        Ever hear the joke about how an attorney is like a prostitute? And, what ever happened to accepting responsibility for your actions? We can assume that the attorney in this act has labeled Farnsworth with “autism spectrum disorder” and has engaged a licensed forensic psychologist or neuropsychologist who has made an analysis of ASD symptoms this client displayed and has concluded a diagnosis of ASD. So what? Does the presence of these symptoms negate personal responsibility for actions that are antisocial and destructive?

        • Comment November 13, 2018 at 10:59 pm

          huh?! what are you on about, m&m???…

      • LunchboxHero November 14, 2018 at 11:48 am

        “…could of…”? Come on, you’re better than that.

  • jpff November 13, 2018 at 10:18 pm

    The lawyer is doing his job of trying to minimize the consequences for his client. If he did not bring such issues up during the trial, it could look very bad for the system because it would appear that the young man was a victim, not a threat.
    And we cannot blame the parents. Those of us who have raised kids through the teen years find out years later many things that our kids got away with that we had never discovered, even if we tried to be aware.
    The young man may be disturbed and have mental issues, but he is the one who must answer for what he did and tried to do. I feel for his family and what they must be going through, and how sad they are that a member of their own family committed the acts he is being tried for. I hope the system provides adequate justice as well as mental help for him for the day he re-enters society if he is found guilty and serves time.

  • Comment November 13, 2018 at 10:51 pm

    And failed bombmaker of the year award goes to… Should it be this guy or the guy that sent 14 FAILED MAIL BOMBS. Sorry but how is that even possible? I mean, who sends a mail bomb in a padded envelope?

    They didn’t call it an explosive but they said IT’S A SUBSTANCE THAT COULD BE DANGEROUS UNDER CERTAIN CONDITIONS.

    It’s been awhile so I forget, was this boy a member of ISIS or Al Cada? And why are they not discussing how he is actually the son of OSAMA BIN LADIN?!

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