Mattoon High School shooting 2

Police and other officials gather in front of Mattoon High School on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, after a shooting incident in the school cafeteria.

CHARLESTON -- A judge on Friday made an adult prison sentence possible for Mattoon High School shooting suspect Josiah Lyons.

The adult prison term would be possible if Lyons is convicted and then sentenced to juvenile detention but doesn't complete that successfully.

Circuit Judge Matt Sullivan granted Coles County State's Attorney Brian Bower's motion on the matter, saying much of what he had to consider was how serious the crime was.

"It's hard to imagine a more serious offense than a gun in school," Sullivan said.

Lyons, now 15, is charged in juvenile court in connection with the Sept. 20 shooting in the MHS cafeteria that injured another student. The charge against him is aggravated battery with a firearm.

In juvenile court, the maximum possible sentence for a conviction would be detention with the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice until age 21, at the most. 

For the adult equivalent of that offense, a prison sentence of six to 30 years is required with a conviction.

Also with Sullivan's ruling on Friday, all future court proceedings in Lyons' case, including his trial, will be open to the public. That isn't usually the case with juvenile court.

Lyons also now has the option of a jury trial, as juvenile cases are otherwise limited to trial by a judge.

While arguing in support of his motion, Bower said state law requires it to be granted unless there's "clear and convincing evidence" that the possible adult sentence isn't appropriate.

Sullivan told Bower he believed evidence was also needed to support the motion.

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In response, Bower said the judge could consider evidence from earlier hearings, including that of a psychiatrist who examined Lyons and told of how Lyons described the shooting and what led to it.

Defense attorney Ed Piraino argued that an adult sentence for a 15-year-old would be a "travesty" and said Lyons' age, his lack of a criminal record and diagnosed mental issues support that contention.

Piraino said the shooting was "no doubt a serious offense" but added that Lyons didn't intend to shoot the student who was injured.

According to the testimony of the psychiatrist, Lawrence Jeckel, Lyons took a gun to school because of "perceived bullying" and to target a girl with whom he'd fought.

The girl wasn't in the cafeteria when Lyons planned the shooting, so he decided to "go down shooting," according to Jeckel. Lyons fired the gun and one shot hit a male student before Lyons was subdued by MHS teacher Angela McQueen, according to accounts.

While replying to Piraino on Friday, Bower noted that Jeckel also testified about other acts of violence on Lyons' part. Lyons was actually on probation from an earlier juvenile offense at the time of the shooting, Bower added.

After granting the motion, Sullivan scheduled Lyons' next court hearing for July 27, when a trial date or other next step in the case will be decided.

Before addressing the motion, Sullivan denied Piraino's request for a delay, which the attorney said was because of his continued attempts to find a facility to treat Lyons' mental issues.

As he did at an earlier hearing, Piraino said he hasn't been able to find a state agency that will accept Lyons. He said Lyons' family wants to explore funding possibilities so he might be placed in another facility.

But Sullivan agreed with Bower, who said a ruling on the motion for the possible adult sentence had to be made no more than two months after it was filed. Bower filed the motion on June 14.

Bower also noted Sullivan's earlier rulings that Lyons not be moved from a juvenile detention facility while the case is pending.

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Contact Dave Fopay at 217-238-6858. Follow him on Twitter: @FopayDave.


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