Third hour phone theft triggers inquiry, confession, possible criminal charges

Brian Richter’s third hour class investing became a hot topic around the school this previous month, not because of the stock market, but because of a missing phone.

Senior Kenan Comley left his cell phone on a desk unattended between 11 and 11:40 a.m. when he went to Ora Shield Activity Center to do a class assignment. He came back to find the phone missing.

“My first thought was that I had misplaced it because my last name is Comley and that’s kind of what we do. I figured I would find it eventually,” Comley said.

Later that day, he received a email — a ransom email. Comley reported the email came from an anonymous, non-school email account with the username of johndoe445632.

“Bring $150 to the Sterling Public Library after school into the men’s bathroom,” the email read. “Leave it in a white envelope and put (it) behind the toilet. You will receive your phone’s location as soon as I get payment. One time chance. If you fail to get payment you will never see your phone again.”

After reading the email, Comley told industrial arts teacher Joshua Pounds, who advised him to tell the school office. The police were contacted and a plan of action was devised.

“I went to the library after school and left an empty envelope. The police set up a hidden camera to see who walked out with the envelope,” Comley said.

However, Comely felt all the buzz going around the school seemed to spook the thief and nothing came from it .

Several students reached out to a suspect in attempt to elicit a confession, or at least get a clue as to where the phone was. The more they pried, the more hints they got, which eventually lead to finding the phone stashed between some history textbooks in the back of Richter’s room Comley disclosed.

A suspect confessed but, according to Principal Bill Anderson, the individual’s name cannot be release due to the person being a minor and possible further consequences still pending. The alleged gave no comment.

In spite of the fact that there was no direct evidence that the accused was actually guilty, Anderson said the school was able to take action based on school law, circumstantial evidence and character evidence.

According to Anderson, school law differs from civil law in the fact that school law does not have to have probable cause to question an individual and only has to have reasonable suspicion to discipline a student. In civil law one must have probable cause to arrest and detain a subject and the suspect must be proven guilty before a sentence can be carried out. This makes it so that the principal of a school has more authority and latitude than the police or courts to make decisions that will affect the safety and protection of other students in the building.

After questioning, Anderson said that the suspect came clean and confessed.

“We are currently taking the strongest course of action needed to in accordance with school policies,” Anderson said in regards the punishment of the student.

Anderson said he will write up a report covering the events and will hand it over to the police who will then review the case and decide if any criminal charges can be made. If so, the report will be forwarded and charges may be filed.