Support grows for stiffer punishment for those behind school threats

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – Support continues to grow to increase sentences those found guilty of making false threats toward schools could receive.

Under North Carolina law, making a false threat towards a school is a Class H felony, which carries with it up to 39 months in prison. However, in the wake of numerous school threats made in the East, some district attorneys are asking for that number to be increased.

“The prosecutors and judges who know the most about the cases should have as much discretion as possible,” said Scott Thomas, the district attorney for Craven, Carteret and Pamlico Counties.

North Carolina operates under a structured sentence system.

“There’s only a box that a judge can sentence somebody,” said Pitt County DA Kimberly Robb.

Both Robb and Thomas are in favor of asking state lawmakers to increase the possible sentences given to those found guilty of making false threats.

WNCT took that to lawmakers in the state to get their take.

“If our district attorneys, law enforcement personnel and judges feel like this is in the best effort to protect our children, yes they will find an advocate in me,” said Rep. John Bell, the majority leader in the House.

“We have to look at these situations independently and act appropriately,” said Sen. Don Davis (D-Dist 5), who also added he would support a measure to better prosecute those behind the threats.

“If there is a belief that we need to find a way to strengthen those statutes, I’m certainly open to doing that,” said Speaker of the House Tim Moore.

Speaker Moore recently formed a sub-committee in the House to look at issues relating to school safety in North Carolina. Rep. John Bell, who represents Craven, Greene and Lenoir Counties, is a member of the committee.

“We need to listen to all the ideas, all the concerns, all the information and all the expertise that we have available to us,” he said.

In a statement, Noelle Talley, Deputy Communications Director for Gov. Roy Cooper, said, “Gov. Cooper appreciates all that is being done to keep North Carolina schools safe and wants prosecutors and law enforcement to have the tools they need to deal with threats of school violence.”

Speaker Moore tells WNCT that if there’s enough support, he believes a measure to increase sentences for those behind school threats could be passed during the short session in 2018.

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