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EXPLOSIVES CASE Attorney: Student sorry for actions



Published: Sat, February 16, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Champion High student is being held in the juvenile detention center over the weekend.

By AMANDA C. DAVIS

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

WARREN -- Officials aren't saying what prompted a 17-year-old Champion student to take explosives onto school grounds this week.

Maridee Costanzo, a juvenile public defender representing Timothy Ben Cook of State Road, did say the boy is sorry for what he did, but offered only a simple explanation.

"Don't judge this client or any juvenile offenders at an adult standard," Costanzo said. "They're still children."

The boy's father, Tim Cook, told reporters Friday, "Right now we just want to get our son help."

Costanzo said the juvenile criminal justice system needs to put more money into rehabilitating young offenders such as Cook instead of focusing on punishment, or they'll "just be a bigger problem down the line."

Hearing: The boy appeared for a detention hearing Friday before Magistrate Monte J. Horton in Trumbull County Juvenile Court.

Handcuffed and donning a gray-striped county-issued uniform, he did not speak during proceedings.

Horton ordered the boy to be held at the county juvenile detention center over the holiday weekend in the interest of protecting the community.

Monday is Presidents Day. He'll be back in court at 11 a.m. Tuesday, when charges will be explained to him.

Assistant prosecutor Stanley Elkins said Cook is being charged with one count of assault on a school administrator, one count of conveyance of a dangerous ordnance on school property and two counts of unlawful possession of a dangerous ordnance -- one count for Thursday and one for being caught in January with explosive materials.

Officials did not explain the assault charge but have said a struggle took place when school administrators confronted Cook.

He faces up to six months on each charge, authorities said.

The state also is looking over evidence to decide if it wants to bind Cook over as a serious youth offender, Elkins said. The new juvenile law that went into effect Jan. 1 allows for stiffer punishment of juveniles, with the stipulation that offenders could face adultlike penalties if they get in trouble again.

Elkins commended school officials and police, saying they helped avert what could have been a dangerous situation. He also said it bothers him that a 17-year-old had access to explosives.

Elkins told reporters the investigation is ongoing and more arrests could be made.

Chief: Champion Police Chief Dennis Steinbeck has declined to specify the explosive, but said it is equivalent to two sticks of dynamite, which could have caused substantial damage.

When he took over in January, Steinbeck said he assigned an officer to Champion High School part time but the officer wasn't on school grounds at the time.

Police received a call Thursday morning from Cook's father saying a gun was missing from the home and that he was worried his son may have taken it to school.

School officials confronted the teen about the gun and said they found the explosives in his coat moments after detaining him.

Earlier: Last month, police said, Cook and a 16-year-old friend took a highly explosive material from Cook's garage. Cook's friend's mother found the material in the trunk of her car and called police.

The two teen-agers told police at the time that they were going to blow up a tree stump but realized the explosive might have been too dangerous, so they put it in the trunk of the car.

Steinbeck said Cook's father used to work in coal mines and had some explosives stored in his garage, but that he didn't know they were still there.

Champion police, the Trumbull County Sheriff's Department, Youngstown Bomb Squad and federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms searched the school for more explosives for about 90 minutes but found nothing, officials said.

The school was evacuated, and students were sent home early.

davis@vindy.com




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