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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Vermont

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, October 20, 2017

Man Accused of Sending Threats to South Burlington High School Students and Faculty Pleads Guilty to Pending Indictment

The Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Vermont announced that Josiah Leach, 19, of South Burlington, Vermont, appeared today before the Honorable Geoffrey W. Crawford and entered a plea of guilty to a one-count indictment charging him with transmitting threats in interstate commerce.

Leach was arrested after law enforcement identified him as the source of multiple threats against students and faculty at South Burlington High School between April 18, 2017 and April 21, 2017, which resulted in repeated lockdowns at South Burlington school facilities and the closure of all South Burlington schools one day before the students’ spring break. He was released on pretrial conditions on April 27, 2017.

On May 26, 2017, Leach was arrested for violating his release conditions, including by using social media to create a fake confession implicating another student in the crime with which he was charged. Leach remained detained until May 30, 2017. He was released with new conditions prohibiting him from using any device with internet access. In total, Leach served ten days in prison.

Leach’s felony guilty plea came pursuant to a previously filed agreement with the government. In the agreement, Leach acknowledged his responsibility for all of the April 2017 threats to South Burlington High School, and agreed with the government to recommend a five-year probationary sentence at the time of sentencing. Under the terms of the deal, however, the Court retains discretion over the ultimate sentence in the case. Sentencing is scheduled for Tuesday, February 20, 2018, in Rutland, Vermont.

Leach was released on continuing pre-trial supervision following the change of plea hearing. His release conditions include obtaining treatment for mental health and substance abuse issues as directed by the U.S. Probation Office, avoiding contact with members of the South Burlington High School community, and not trespassing within 500 feet of the South Burlington Middle and High School complex on Dorset Street.

Acting U.S. Attorney Eugenia A. P. Cowles commended the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the South Burlington Police, and the Vermont State Police for their rapid response to, and thorough investigation of, this matter. Ms. Cowles noted that the proposed five-year term of probation recognized both Leach’s relative youth and the callous, repeated nature of his threats to his fellow students. “While we hope the case marks a turning point for Mr. Leach, his behavior deserves the serious sanctions of a federal felony conviction and an extended period of rigorous supervision. No student, no school, and no community should have to face the fear Mr. Leach inflicted on South Burlington.”

“Making anonymous threats online is not a harmless prank,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Vadim D. Thomas. “Mr. Leach’s conduct violated the community’s sense of safety and diverted valuable law enforcement resources. The FBI and our law enforcement partners hope that today’s plea will serve as a warning to others who contemplate similar criminal conduct.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office encourages members of the South Burlington High School community who were impacted by Leach’s conduct to contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Victim Specialist Aimee Stearns (aimee.stearns@usdoj.gov) regarding available victim support services and opportunities to submit impact statements before the February 20, 2018 sentencing.

Leach is represented by Assistant Federal Public Defender Elizabeth Quinn. AUSA Michael Drescher represents the United States.

Topic(s): 
Cyber Crime
Violent Crime
Component(s): 
Updated October 20, 2017