Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Man Charged with Highlands Bomb Threat Serving Time in Jail

Tyler Swope was sentenced today in Campbell County Circuit Court today in connection with calling in a bomb threat on January 15, 2014. Photo: Facebook. 

Tyler Swope, the 20-year-old Highlands alum and former Prom King charged with terroristic threatening and false reporting in connection with a bomb threat called into Highlands High School last January was in court this week for sentencing after issuing an open plea to Campbell County Circuit Court.

After a sentencing hearing that began Monday afternoon and ended Wednesday morning, Swope was sentenced to six months in the Campbell County Detention Center, six years probation, and 500 hours of community service, 150 of which will be directed to speaking to high school students about his transgressions.

Swope's attorney, Phil Taliaferro, built the defense around Swope's past, positioning the defendant as a remorseful victim with a broken personal past, which includes a congenital physical disability that, although treated, would later keep him from high school athletics and pursuing a career in the military.

According to Taliaferro, there were "two Tylers," the one everyone had known growing up, and another, who struggled to deal with his disability.

"I've been remorseful been from day one," Swope addressed the court. "I've been taught to be honest, and from day one I've been honest," referring to his admission of guilt upon charges being issued against him last year.

Dr. Scott Bresler, Clinical Director of Forensic Psychology at the University of Cincinnati, testified that with proper supervision and treatment, Swope would not commit such a crime again, saying, "He made a mistake and one he'll pay for the rest of his life. He wanted to be a police officer, firefighter, or a position of trust. That will not happen for him now. You see young children play dress-up sometimes, putting firefighter uniforms on and they become someone stronger. A different person from their normal self. At 20 years old, Tyler was doing that."

Prior to last year's events, Swope served as a volunteer firefighter in Southgate.

Arguing prison time would only deter Swope's emotional or psychological recovery, Swope's attorneys Phil Taliaferro and Jack Porter requested a sentence of probation with restrictions from Circuit Court Judge Fred Stine, who presided over the case.

The prosecution, though, questioned whether Swope was truly remorseful, citing five other examples that occurred between January 2014 and March 2014, in addition to January's bomb threat, of false reporting to which Swope ultimately admitted, including reporting a "person down" at Evergreen Terrace, a person with difficulty breathing at Woodland Hills, a drowning at the Southgate Community Center, and smoke on the third floor of Highlands High School.

Swope was identified as the suspect in the bomb threat case on March 20, almost two months after calling in the threat on January 15, 2014. One of his final phony calls, however occurred March 6, 2014 where Swope called and said there was a fire on the third floor at Highlands High School.

Regarding the bomb threat, prosecuting attorney Adam Hill, of the Campbell County Commonwealth's Attorneys office, rebutted the defense's notion that Swope is the victim, saying, "There was not just one victim, there were hundreds if not thousands."

Elaborating on the case against Swope after the punishment was handed down, Hill said, "There was a clear escalation in calls. He did it because he felt excited, exhilarated. He didn't stop these calls because he knew it was wrong, he stopped because he was caught."

But by the end of Monday's proceedings, Judge Stine was not satisfied, saying "I've been sitting here this entire time wondering if the Commonwealth is going to bring somebody from the high school, somebody in a position of authority," to testify to the full impact Swope's bomb threat had that January morning.

Stine allowed the prosecution until Wednesday morning to provide such a witness.

Brian Robinson, Principal at Highlands High School, was brought in to testify, describing the morning the call was made and how he learned of the threat, saying Highlands Assistant Principal's secretary came into Robinson's office "quite distraught and visibly shaken, which was out of the ordinary." She went on to say someone had just called in a bomb threat with a distorted voice, 'like a computer,' saying the school should be evacuated. The phone number was reportedly disguised to appear as if the call was placed from inside the school building.

On any given school day morning, by 7:00 a.m., which is approximately when the threat was made, Highlands has anywhere from 150-200 students, or nearly 10-15% of the student body, already on campus for early bird classes.

Echoing a number of the witnesses called by the defense to attest to Swope's character, Robinson continued, "Tyler and I knew each other well. I was proud of him, and I had about as positive feelings for Tyler as any student I've had. He was a bit of an underdog. He'd always surprise you with his kindness, his helpfulness. (But after the bomb threat) there was confusion, hurt, loss of trust."

Robinson said that the secretary who took the call was visibly shaken again on the one-year anniversary of the call last month.

"When you violate the trust of the school, put students in danger, incarceration is probably an appropriate response," Robinson continued. "I believe the consequence should be clear enough that this discourages other from doing this again."

Fort Thomas Police Officer Michael Rowland, who responded to the scene on the day of the bomb threat, also testified that all of Swope's false reports were serious matters, as well, in that they diverted valuable resources from the department and put first responders and nearby residents' lives in jeopardy.

Ultimately, Stine said he wanted to strike a balance between handing down a punishment that fits the crime while also considering the individual, saying that, had Swope had any previous criminal record, and absent all those who testified to his character, the sentence would have been more severe.

"These are serious crimes and there must be a price an individual has to pay," Stine said to Swope while issuing his sentence. "Your life is not over. You've a very diverse person and I cannot fathom why you did this. If you had anything of a criminal record before this, you'd likely have done the five years. There's a balance judges must strike between punishments fitting the crime and tailoring them to an individual."

Taliaferro said he found Stine's ruling fair. "This sentence will be good for Tyler, the community and his family," he said. "He'll stay here in Campbell County and he'll be treated well. He'll make a difference now because he'll help other people. He's such a fine young man. I just thank the Lord Judge Stine assigned him community service. In some ways this was a blessing to Tyler."

Of the 500 hours of community service Swope must perform, 150 must be spent speaking to students about how this event has impacted his life.

"I want others to see this effect on you so that people don't attempt to do this again," Stine said.

Phil Taliaferro was part of the defense team that represented Swope. 

11 comments:

  1. probably the right decision. main thing is that this cannot happen again.

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  2. Steven Jeffery CullFebruary 4, 2015 at 12:31 PM

    Wow. That's a lenient sentence.

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  3. How is 6 months in jail and 6 years probation lenient?

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  4. Well considering his attorney said that was as good an outcome as they could have hoped for and considering he could have gone to jail for 6 years, I'd say it was pretty lenient.

    Agree with the judge here. Have to give him some jail time. Can't let him walk with no jail time, sets a bad example.

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  5. So you can report on this but you can't report on 5 students being investigated with spraying urine on teammates?? Very poor news reporting, just because its highlands doesn't mean you shouldn't be all hush hush about it, let it be heard.

    http://www.fox19.com/story/28767349/at-least-five-student-athletes-being-investigated-for-harassment-at-highlands-high-school

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    1. Might want to re-check the site. They published this last night.

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    2. Also, I dont understand why people were freaking out on twitter, it happened. It was wrong, it needs to be reported. It needs to be brought to everyones attention what goes on in our public schools. It shouldn't be kept quite at all, every news van in NKY should be up there trying to get some info on it. Harassment isn't something kids take lightly, especially in todays world, kids can get depressed because action wasn't taken. A few days suspension is nothing, they should all be let off the team, and if i was the parent of the affected criminal charges would be taken. You wouldn't get away with doing that to my son and nothing being said about it. Lets get a response from the school Fox19 is doing nothing wrong, so You go Fox19!!

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    3. They also retweeted Tricia last night (which is how I found out about it). No one could report on this until a parent came out to talk. I know for a fact channel 19 and 9 were at the Board of Education offices on Wednesday. I drove by several times. I don't know if FTM was there or not, just saw the news trucks. I'm glad they showed restraint here. We don't know if they are minors and HHS is not a public entity. They can't make them talk.

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    4. IDC if there minors or not you don't have to state there names, just let it be known that it happened and quit trying to cover it up. Hazing is illegal. Period. How about we just get the whole story..... Im glad the parents are talking good for them!!!

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    5. We agree. It's a terrible incident. How are they supposed to get the story without having a parent talk though? Just make Highlands talk? The school's responsibility is to protect the kids. This happened in South Carolina, meaning there is no police report here.

      All you have is a message board with people posting anonymously. That is not reporting.

      Not sure what you're trying to get at here? Your original point was that you're trying to draw a similarity between the bomb threat and this, I guess?

      Well, it's not hard to see the differences here. Now, if the school talks or a parent talks, by all means, everyone should blow this up. I agree. It shouldn't be taken lightly, but just not sure what these news orgs can do if no one talks.

      The outrage here should be with Highlands and the Board of Education. News orgs hands are tied.

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  6. I dont believe they were trying to compare the two incidences, as they are not similar. I just feel as if they should follow up on it, Highlands is a great school, but they are for sure tight lipped, its going to be hard to get word from them, but it can be done. Bullies start emotional problems for other people. Which this then ties the two stories together....I think everyone from the community should come when they send Swope to the school to talk (for 150 hours).
    Maybe FTM can even do an article of "his side of the story" we will have to see.

    Fact of the matter is this obviously happened you can't make a story up like this.

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