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Lawyer: Connetquot High teen arrested in bomb plot studied forensic science

Evidence seized from a Connetquot High School student,

Evidence seized from a Connetquot High School student, on display during a press conference at the Fifth Precinct in Patchogue on Thursday, May 2, 2019. Three students were arrested for planning to denonate a bomb inside the school. Credit: James Carbone

One of the three Connetquot High School teens arrested in an alleged campus bomb plot is an honors student with an interest in forensic science, his attorney said Friday.

Two boys and a girl were arrested Thursday on charges of fourth-degree conspiracy after they discussed the plan in an “explicit” 20-minute conversation on a school bus, within earshot of other riders and videotaped by an onboard surveillance camera, officials said.

The students, who are all 16 years old, conspired “to build an explosive device to be detonated within the Connetquot High School building,” according to the felony complaints.

The students pleaded not guilty at separate arraignments Thursday in Suffolk County Criminal Court in Central Islip; they were placed on supervised release and ordered to wear tracking devices. 

Police searched the students' homes and discovered three BB guns — including two BB long guns — and a copy of “The Anarchist Cookbook,” which contains bomb-making instructions, officials said. The books seized by police were part of a school science project, said attorney John Scarpa, who represents a suspect he described as an honors student.

Investigators found no bomb-making materials, police said.

Books on crime scene investigation, serial killers and forensic analysis also were seized, they said.

A course guide posted on the school district's website lists "434 Forensic Chemistry," a half-year science elective open to juniors and seniors. 

"Students will apply science to the law, as they develop process skills," according to the course description. "Content areas will include fingerprinting, serology, fiber and hair analysis, toxicology, ballistics and general crime scene procedures. This is an activity driven class; therefore, students with excellent attendance records are encouraged to enroll."

“‘The Anarchist Cookbook’” was used for a school project and had nothing to do with the alleged plot,” Scarpa said. “My client is an honor student and is very family-oriented. Additionally, he is interested in pursuing a career in the field of forensic science, which is why he had books on this topic. We believe he will be exonerated in due time.”

Suffolk County police and the office of District Attorney Timothy Sini declined to comment on Scarpa's remarks.

The girl is represented by attorney Michael Annibale, who declined to comment on the charges. "It's early on in the investigation, and we are looking at all the facts and circumstances," he said.

The other boy is represented by Melissa Quinn, an attorney with the Suffolk County Legal Aid Society. In court Thursday, Quinn said her client is a student athlete and had no prior problems in school and no criminal record. She did not respond to a request for comment Friday. 

Scarpa and Annibale said their clients have been suspended from school. The status of the boy represented by Quinn could not be determined.

A school district spokeswoman declined to comment on Scarpa’s assertions or confirm that the students had been disciplined.

“Support services are being offered on an individual student basis as needed” to the student body, the spokeswoman said in a statement Friday.

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