Judge dismisses case against teens accused in torture plot

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SALT LAKE CITY -- A judge dismissed charges Thursday against two teens accused of plotting to kidnap and torture people. Prosecutors say parents caught the alleged plot before anything could happen, but the father of one of the boys says there was no real threat.

"I don't think there was anything close to a concern here that this could have been carried out," said Thomas Burton, defense attorney for the 14-year-old.

A judge dismissed the case against two teenage boys, but she scolded them too. "She said this was disturbing behavior, and she actually admonished both of these boys and said, ‘You need counseling for this,'" said Salt Lake County Deputy District Attorney Rob Neill.

Prosecutors say they stopped an alleged torture plot, modeled after the horror movie "Saw." In March, the 15-year-old's parents eavesdropped on a telephone conversation between the teen and his friend and called police.

"We felt, on behalf of the community, on behalf of the victims, that we need to take these things seriously and we need to prosecute them," Neill said.

But the defense argued the teens had no intent or capacity to carry out such a plan. They say the parents overreacted; they also criticized police interviews.

"With a lot of leading questions, [police] basically induced them to talk about a plan that was fantastical from the beginning," Burton said.

The judge wasn't convinced beyond a reasonable doubt. Her ruling brought tears and applause from the 14-year-old's family. His father spoke to KSL 5 News, but asked us not to identify him. "We've been feeling so bad about this situation," he said.

The father says the boys were just talking about a movie and his son would not hurt anyone. "He's a great boy. He's very polite, and I think it's just a misunderstanding," he said.

He says the past three months have been difficult, but he always knew his son was innocent of the charges. "He's happy today, very happy. And we all thanks to God about that," the father said.

The judge released the 14-year-old from house arrest; the 15-year-old, who has been in juvenile detention, was placed in protective custody with the state, attorneys say, at his parents' request. He will get counseling.

E-mail: syi@ksl.com.

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