Teen can't plead guilty but mentally ill in school stabbings

AP News
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Posted: Feb 03, 2017 7:31 PM

PITTSBURGH (AP) — A teen charged with slashing and stabbing 20 fellow students and a security guard at a Pennsylvania high school cannot plead guilty but mentally ill, a judge decided Friday.

Common Pleas Court Judge Christopher Feliciani concluded in an opinion and court order that Alex Hribal, 19, "may have suffered from a psychotic illness" during the April 2014 rampage but that didn't make him incapable of knowing what he did was wrong.

Both sides agree Hribal used two 8-inch kitchen knives to carve a bloody path though the hallways of Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville. Four of the victims were critically injured, including one who required a liver transplant, but all survived and have since recovered.

Hribal, then 16, purposely planned the attack on the birthday of Eric Harris, one of two teens psychiatrists say Hribal "worshipped" for their attacks on Columbine High School near Denver on April 20, 1999. Hribal told psychiatric experts for the prosecution and the defense he first wanted to commit the attacks on the 15th anniversary of the Columbine attacks but couldn't because school wasn't in session that day.

Defense attorney Patrick Thomassey sought the plea because it would send Hribal to a mental health facility first, then a state prison if his condition improved.

"I'm very disappointed," Thomassey told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "I assume now we'll proceed to trial, and I'll see if 12 citizens from Westmoreland County believe he's mentally ill or not."

The judge cited Hribal's planning and preparation ahead of the rampage and inconsistent mental health assessments in issuing the denial.

"The Court finds that Hribal engaged in a well-organized and sophisticated plan to commit a deliberate act, namely killing as many people as possible," the judge wrote.

Prosecutors have said Hribal's mental conditions could be adequately treated in a state prison.