MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- Two teens have been charged for their alleged roles in a prank that evacuated Caney Creek High School.
A strong odor at the school on May 3 and May 4 prompted evacuations and an extensive search by the district to find the source of the smell. At the time, the district told ABC13 that six students were taken to the hospital for headaches and nausea. They were released the same day.
"I stayed home 'cause I had a headache from school," a Caney Creek student told ABC13 the day after the evacuations.
Court documents state two students had cans labeled "fart spray." Now, both students are facing third-degree felony charges for having what has been deemed a prohibited weapon.
"The crime doesn't really fit the punishment under these circumstances," legal analyst Steve Shellist said.
Shellist said under the definition of the law, "fart spray" can technically be considered a prohibited weapon, but he worries the language is too broad.
"Good lawyers on a case like this - if the DA's office pushed - might need to challenge the constitutionality of the law or what we call the overbreadth of the law. It's too broad. It cast too large of a net," Shellist said.
The arrest warrants said the actions and substance were capable of causing adverse psychological and physiological effects on a human being.
"If I took blue cheese, which I think has a noxious smell, and I put it in a device of some sort that can, and people have an adverse physiological reaction, suddenly I'm guilty of a felony of the third degree, and surely that can't be the intent," Shellist said.
He also said he understand the school district and law enforcement taking the matter seriously. The school was evacuated twice, and several students did go to the hospital, but he worries about what potential felony charges could do to alter these young people's lives.
"Things show up on your records, but the details don't often show up. What shows up is just a snapshot of the title of the offense. So here it would be 'felony prohibited weapon.' No one would know unless they dug deeper and got access to information that it was a prank and it was fart spray," Shellist said.
Conroe ISD wouldn't answer our questions on Wednesday on how their investigation led to these felony charges, only referring us to the district attorney. The DA's office said they can't comment on active cases but did send us a statement saying in part:
"We can affirm that even the initial evidence outlined in the charges indicates that this incident goes beyond the scope of a benign school prank. While being mindful of these details, we also fully understand and acknowledge the youth of the individuals involved in this case. The potential for impulsive decisions, especially among younger individuals, is a factor we consider during our pursuit of justice."
Court documents state the students admitted to bringing a can labeled "fart spray" into school and spraying it. Now they face third-degree felony charges and up to 10 years in prison. But Shellist feels there are repercussions better suited for these students.
"Cooler minds will prevail. I think that eventually, once they make it to court and they have lawyers and get in front of a judge, and they put mitigation evidence down in front of the prosecution, I'm sure there will be an outcome that does not reflect the current state of the charges," Shellist said.
Shellist said the county has a pre-trial diversion program that allows first-time offenders to go through a probationary process that could result in the charges being dismissed and scrubbed from the record.
"That, to me, would be a fair outcome. Punish them, put them through a little bit of or a lot of challenging circumstances so they learn from this, but don't do something that permanently destroys their future," Shellist said.
He said having a felony prohibited weapon charge on their record can change the trajectory of these students' lives. The DA's office also sent the following statement:
"We encourage those with concerns to exercise patience and allow the process to work."
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