A Hannawa Falls teen has pled guilty to a felony after he brought a gun onto the grounds of Colton-Pierrepont Central School in March.
Sawyer M. Pignona, 16, one of two defendants charged on March 18 with bringing a firearm onto the grounds of the school in Colton, pled guilty in St. Lawrence County Court last Friday, July 12 to felony criminal possession of a weapon on school grounds and misdemeanor menacing in the second degree.
The plea agreement was reached reached after what a statement from St. Lawrence County District Attorney Nicole Duvé’s office called “an extensive meeting” on July 9 among school officials, the DA, Pignona and his attorney Anthony Neddo.
Also providing input on the case were C-P Superintendent Joseph Kardash and others, who voiced their concerns and asked questions and offer input.
Co-defendant Connor Warden, 17, Potsdam, and his attorney, Gary Miles, were in attendance and participated as well, the statement said.
Pignona will be back in court in September at which time he is expected to be placed on interim probation for one year to allow him to fulfill certain obligations under the plea agreement, the DA’s statement said. Full compliance and successful completion of interim probation would earn Pignona the opportunity to have his felony plea vacated in exchange for a plea to two misdemeanors and a sentence of three years probation. Because of his age, he may also be adjudicated a youthful offender at the discretion of the court.
Requirements of interim probation include, among other things, community service in the form of a minimum one hour presentation to be given at all consenting school districts in St. Lawrence County. The presentation is expected to include a discussion about the events leading up to the criminal conduct, the consequences, the impact on others and the community, the role of social media and lessons learned. For every school district that chooses not to participate, 25 hours of community service will be imposed with priority to be given to the Colton community for the service of those hours.
On the date of the offense, state police received a report of a suspicious person at the school just after regular class hours.
“We had a suspicious vehicle in the north parking lot after school on Monday,” a statement on the school web site said.
“While exiting the property passenger in the vehicle waved an object out of the window that was later confirmed to be a gun,” the statement said. A staff member and two lacrosse players practicing after school were in the parking lot at the time, the announcement said.
Officials brought students into the building and all doors were locked, and police arrived to secure the school. Parents were called to pick up students and after school activities were cancelled.
While police told officials arrests had been made and they believed the situation was under control, officials asked for additional police presence the next day “to restore the feeling of security and safety.”
It was reported at the time that the incident might have been connected to an ongoing dispute between students at Colton-Pierrepont and Potsdam schools.
Duvé said it was important for the boys to hear at the meeting last Friday how they affected other people, and commended those from the school community for being open to such a meeting as a way to start the healing process. “It will take time, but hopefully this is a good first step,” said Duvé.
“This was alarming conduct and it had a very profound impact on the school, the victim and the surrounding community, so it was vital to try and find a way to involve those most affected in reaching an appropriate resolution,” said Duvé.