ST. GEORGE — A judge sentenced a Hurricane teen who brought a homemade bomb to his high school last year to serve four years of “intensely supervised” probation Wednesday.
Martin Farnsworth, 17, appeared in 5th District Court Wednesday afternoon where Judge Michael Westfall sentenced him to serve 48 months of supervised probation and 250 hours of community service, along with additional restrictions.
Farnsworth had been facing a potential five years-to-life prison term that came with the first-degree felony charge of attempting to injure others with an incendiary device that he pleaded guilty to last month as a part of a plea deal.
Prior to taking the plea, Farnsworth faced felony charges for attempted murder and possession of a weapon of mass destruction.
The case was originally set in juvenile court last year but was moved to 5th District Court where he was tried as an adult due to the severity of the incident involved.
The charges stem from a March 5, 2018 incident in which Farnsworth took a homemade explosive to Pine View High School. He placed the would-be incendiary device in a backpack in the cafeteria area during lunch and left after lighting a fuse. At the time, the cafeteria contained between 75-150 students.
Students noticed smoke coming from the backpack that contained the device and reported it to school faculty and the school’s resource officer, triggering an evacuation of the school and a multi-agency response from law enforcement.
While the incendiary device’s fuse fizzled out and failed to ignite, investigators determined that if it had gone off, it would have caused damage to the immediate area and injured those near it.
The device was constructed out of a “metal soup can filled with metal BB shots removed from shot gun shells,” according to court documents.
It also included “three canning lids with masking tape, BBs, an improvised fuse, black gun powder, white plastic cup, empty box of box-strike matches, three 16.9 oz. water bottles of gasoline” and other items.
Investigators found that Farnsworth learned to make an incendiary device via online instructions believed to be connected to the Islamic State terror group, according to court records and testimony.
Edward Flint, Farnsworth’s attorney, said that building the incendiary device and attempting to use it were a response to bullying his client had received at school and he finally snapped. The result was a criminal act, he added.
“The way life is going, it’s not going well,” Farnsworth said in a recording of a police interview after he was taken into custody. “There’s a bunch of bad people. I don’t like the way the world is going. I just wanted to do something to make it different.”
“He feels guilt and remorse, yes, but differently,” Flint said, referring to Farnsworth being diagnosed with a mild, yet high-functioning form of autism and severe depression. The diagnosis was made by a mental health expert as a part of an evaluation connected to the pre-sentencing report.
Flint said the severe depression was a result of the bullying.
The perceived lack of empathy on Farnsworth’s part over what he’d done was also a sign of autism spectrum disorder, and not necessary a sign the teen didn’t regret was he had done.
“He’s a model citizen and a good person all around – but he snapped,” Flint said.
Westfall did not agree with Flint’s assessment. Being bullied to the point where you hit the bully is snapping, he said. In contrast, Farnsworth’s action were planned out.
“This took some planning. This took some thought, and that’s troubling to me, because you didn’t just ‘snap.’”
Westfall also addressed Farnsworth prior to sentencing, mentioning that one of the teen’s siblings had written a letter to the court saying the event didn’t define who their brother was.
“Unfortunately, there are things we do that define us,” Westfall said. “Had this incendiary device gone off and someone had been hurt, not only would you be defined by this behavior, but so would your family.”
In addition to the 48 months of probation and 250 hours community service, Westfall ordered Farnsworth to wear an ankle monitor for 90 days, have no access to bomb-making materials, seek a psychiatric evaluation for the purpose of getting needed medications, have no internet access for six months, observe a curfew and write an apology letter to Pine View High and its students.
Following the sentencing, Deputy Washington County Attorney Angela Adams, who prosecuted the case, said the state was satisfied with the outcome.
“He’s getting 48 months of intensely supervised probation,” Adams said, adding that if Farnsworth does something to put his probation in jeopardy, he could still end up facing the five years-to-life sentence suspended by the judge.
“Of course, we hope he will be successful on probation,” she said.
Adams also said she believes justice was served to the extent that the community is being protected and all involved are doing what they can to minimize the possibility of this incident repeating itself.
“The state is satisfied that the safeguards put into place will protect the community.”
The defense was also pleased with the results of the sentencing.
“What we were hoping for was (Farnsworth) being released from custody into probation without any further juvenile or adult incarceration and that’s what we got,” Flint said.
Farnsworth served 415 days in juvenile detention prior to being released Wednesday.
As for the additional restrictions, Flint said they were to be expected and not out of the ordinary for a case involving a first-degree felony.
When asked about his client’s reaction, Flint said he didn’t have much of one.
“Martin doesn’t react much,” he said. “That’s the nature of autism spectrum disorder. He’s very quiet and introverted.”
Farnsworth’s autism was an angle largely ignored by the state, Flint said, which led to him being treated as a common criminal rather than as someone who needed additional consideration.
“Individuals with autism have a difficult time understanding how other people feel, and have a difficult time processing their own feelings when they are bullied or made fun of or even when they interact normally with other people, they’re going to react differently, and it’s like none of that mattered,” he said.
“He committed a crime, no doubt about that, but it seems like nobody’s noticing that he’s autistic and he needs help.”
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.