The Globe and Mail
Tuesday, January 23, 2001
page A7

After a month in custody,
boy sent home until trial

Separated by storm over schoolboy's story,
family will celebrate Christmas late

by Destanislao Oziewicz

CORNWALL, ONT. -- After a month in detention, the younger of two Eastern Ontario brothers charged with uttering death threats was released yesterday into the custody of his parents.

The 14-year-old had been held without bail since Dec. 21, when he was charged with threatening to blow up two secondary schools north of Cornwall.

His 16-year-old brother was charged earlier in December, partly in connection with a story he wrote for a school assignment. The 16-year-old's case has drawn attention in literary circles as an attack on freedom of expression.

The older boy was charged Dec. 8 with four counts of uttering death threats and was held in custody until his release Jan. 11 on $10,000 bail. One of those charges relates in part to a story of revenge, called Twisted, that he wrote and then presented to his drama class in the form of a monologue. The other three relate to specific death threats to several classmates.

Both cases are scheduled to go to trial next fall.

The mother of the two boys was ecstatic that her family finally is being reunited and can celebrate a belated Christmas.

"Up to now we haven't felt like family because we've been separated, pulled apart", she said outside the Cornwall courthouse.

Reporting on many details of the two cases is constrained by publication bans and by the Young Offenders Act, which prohibits the publication of any material that may identify the boys.

In releasing the younger boy, Judge Bruce MacPhee of the Ontario Court also relaxed the bail conditions on the elder brother. The bail has been reduced to $2,500; constraints on his movements outside his home have been relaxed somewhat, and he now is allowed computer access to the Internet.

"That's a very nice improvement", the boy said outside the courthouse, "because I receive a joke list by e-mail and I play a [chat room] game".

Judge MacPhee said that the futures of the children are at stake and that the family's privacy should be respected.

But the media glare, which the parents and their Cornwall lawyer invited, may be difficult to dim, in part because the parents and the older boy are the star attractions at an Ottawa fundraiser this weekend to raise money for his defence and to discuss civil-liberties issues.

The event, organized by the Ottawa International Writers Festival, is being held at the National Arts Centre.

The boys' mother said the family will honour its commitment to attend the festival even though she now wants her children out of the limelight.

"Our boys are not used to this kind of attention. We're not used to this kind of attention. It would be nice to have more privacy, to have all the attention die down."

Frank Horn, the family's Cornwall lawyer, said the case is as much about what goes on in schools as about freedom of expression.

"So many people can identify with what is going on in this situation, with the aspect of the bullying and the fact that people are ostracized by circumstances and because they're a little bit different."

The family has said they never fit in well in their rural community and that the older boy's Grade 11 drama-class presentation was inspired by his experiences as a victim of bullying.

"This is now so common in the school system ... anybody who has children in school at this time is seeing so much of this stuff", Mr. Horn said.

After his release, the boy said he never thought of acting out the fantasy he presented and that he simply wanted to write something that sounded realistic.

Copyright © 2001 by The Globe and Mail. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.