Ex-South Western HS student pleads guilty in school-threat case

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch

A former South Western School District student accused of talking to fellow classmates about shooting up the school has avoided a criminal conviction by instead pleading guilty to a summary offense.

Ethan M. Wilson pleaded guilty in York County Court on Monday, Sept. 10, to disorderly conduct, according to court records.

In exchange, a misdemeanor charge of making terroristic threats was dismissed. Summary offenses are akin in seriousness to traffic tickets.

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Penn Township Police filed charges after they were told that Wilson asked during a Feb. 15 class, "Why do you think I want to shoot up the school?"

He also allegedly made statements about guns and a pressure cooker and that he had a ski mask, police have said.

Senior deputy prosecutor Lewis Reagan said he reviewed the case — including with York County District Attorney Dave Sunday and with Wilson's defense attorney, Dan Carn — prior to the plea agreement being made.

Carn maintained Wilson "was talking about school shootings in the clinical sense of the word," according to Reagan, and not threatening to do it.

"My understanding is that they were in some sort of psychology class and ... the topic of school shootings came up," Reagan said, and that's when Wilson made the statements.

Nothing found: Wilson's home was searched, but police found no weapons, no pressure cooker and no manifesto, the prosecutor said.

After the incident, Wilson was expelled from school, according to Reagan. But he subsequently secured a scholarship to a local post-secondary school, which he is attending now.

"He would lose his scholarship if he was convicted of a misdemeanor," Reagan said.

Also, a fellow student who was "a little scared" by the encounter later told investigators she wasn't opposed to the summary plea agreement, according to the prosecutor.

School officials also indicated they didn't object to the proposed plea agreement and told Reagan that Wilson had shown no prior behavioral issues at school, he said. And he had no infractions or issues while on supervised bail, according to the prosecutor.

"It looks like he's turned the corner," Reagan said of Wilson.

Reagan said that in making the plea agreement, he weighed what was said and the context in which it was said, as well as the concerns and wishes of the South Western School District and a student victim.

Carn, the defense attorney, didn't return a phone message seeking comment.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.