Skey gets three months jail, three years probation for school threats
The student who pled guilty to uttering threats that led to the cancellation of the Mount Sentinel Secondary grad last June was sentenced in Nelson court on Tuesday.
Judge Phil Seagram sentenced 18-year-old Denver Skey to three months in jail and three years probation. But Skey won't be going back to jail because the judge ordered that the time he has already served since his arrest in June — just over five months — will suffice.
The 14 probation conditions include a ban on firearms possession, attendance at a variety of counselling programs, periodic psychiatric assessments, no alcohol or drugs, no going within 100 metres of Mount Sentinel unless passing on the highway, no playing first-person violent video games, keeping a log for his probation officer of all websites visited, and no contact with Mt. Sentinel students, teachers or staff including those who graduated in the 2015-16 school year.
Judge Seagram recounted the basic circumstances of the case:
• On June 20, during a grad rehearsal at Mount Sentinel, Skey, from high in the bleachers, made the motion of loading and firing a handgun and a rifle. When this was first reported to principal Glen Campbell, Skey told Campbell that it was intended as a celebratory salute to the grads.
• Campbell confronted Skey again on June 23 about the incident, and what Skey told him then caused Campbell to call the police, who arrested Skey under the Mental Health Act and took him to Kootenay Lake Hospital.
• There Skey told Dr. Nicholas Sparrow that he had thought carefully about how to carry out a shooting at the grad and explained the plan in some detail to the doctor: what weapons he would use, how he could conceal them, and what he would wear.
• Dr. Sparrow ordered that Skey be held under the Mental Health Act and taken to the Daly Pavilion, the mental health facility in Trail. There he was taken into custody and charged with three counts of uttering threats, later reduced to two counts.
Seagram said that based on three psychiatric reports, there was no evidence that Skey suffered from any serious mental illness, but that he was "a young man with challenges," suffering from depression, anxiety, and social isolation.
The judge said the aggravating factors in the case were the deliberate and specific nature of the threats, the $13,000 cost to the school related to the postponement of the grad and the cancellation of other events, and the significant impact on the students, their families and teachers.
Although they were not made public, the judge was presented with victim impact statements from Campbell and from students. According to prosecutor Sunday Patola in court last week, several statements from students spoke of trauma, panic attacks, insomnia, fear of going outside, and fear for their safety once Skey was released. Parents expressed fear for the safety of their children.
Seagram said the mitigating factors were Skey's young age, his lack of a criminal record, his guilty plea, his letter of apology given to the court, his low risk of re-offending according to psychiatric reports, a high degree of family support, and his willingness to engage in counselling.
During the sentencing, Seagram responded to defence lawyer Ken Wyllie's contention in court last week that the fearful public response to the incident was an overreaction by school authorities and the media, and that once Skey was in custody there was no threat.
Seagram said school shootings have become all too common mostly in the US but also occasionally in Canada, and that school authorities "have little choice but to take significant safety precautions. In the moment, with limited information, they must err on the side of caution."