Hribal pleads not guilty to Franklin Regional stabbings, asks for jury trial
Alex Hribal has pleaded not guilty to charges that he tried to kill 20 fellow Franklin Regional Senior High School students and a security guard during an April 9 knife rampage at the school — a move one legal expert said possibly could be a step toward establishing an insanity defense.
Hribal, 16, of Murrysville has requested a jury trial, according to court documents.
The teenager is charged as an adult with slashing and stabbing his way down a crowded hallway before he was subdued by a school official. Several of the students were critically wounded.
Westmoreland County prosecutors have charged Hribal with 21 counts each of attempted murder and aggravated assault as well as one charge of possession of a weapon on school property.
These latest developments occurred as Hribal's defense lawyer, Pat Thomassey, filed a one-page document to waive the teen's July 23 appearance for an arraignment or a formal reading of the charges against him. In that document, Hribal entered the not guilty plea.
“There's no sense in him appearing in front of a judge to enter a not guilty plea,” Thomassey said.
Though it is early in the process, Temple University law professor Barbara Lynn Ashcroft said, it is possible that Thomassey may address issues dealing with Hribal's mental health through the courts.
“He has already set the stage for a potential defense of insanity,” Ashcroft said. “(But) I wouldn't say that is the only possibility.”
A search warrant unsealed at the courthouse this week revealed that investigators found a handwritten note in Hribal's school locker, dated three days before the attack, that was titled “RAGNOROK.”
Experts said ragnorok, or ragnarok, refers to a final battle preceding the end of the world in Norse mythology.
In the note, Hribal expressed dissatisfaction with school and society, police said.
Thomassey said on Tuesday that as more information about the case is released, it is apparent that “this young boy was suffering from serious mental health issues.”
“The fact that he is not putting his client through the rigors of a preliminary hearing … it is very possible that he is setting the stage for … some type of a guilty plea … or defense of insanity,” Ashcroft said. This month, Thomassey waived his client's right to a preliminary hearing, a proceeding in which a district judge would have determined whether there is enough evidence for Hribal to stand trial.
Waiving the right to a preliminary hearing could indicate “they may want to be posturing that their client is cooperating,” she said.
Along those lines, Ashcroft said, Thomassey may be anticipating an offer of a plea agreement.
And it may be Thomassey's attempt to show sensitivity by not putting the witnesses and victims through the trauma of testifying, Ashcroft said.
Waivers of arraignment are standard operating procedure in Westmoreland County courts, according to defense attorney Duke George, who is not associated with the Hribal case.
Such a waiver permits the defense to begin crafting its case, George said.
“The only people who do a (court) arraignment are defendants who don't have an attorney,” he said.
Hribal is being held without bail in the Regional Youth Services Center in Hempfield, the county's juvenile detention center.
Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Staff writers Paul Peirce and Renatta Signorini contributed to this report.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers defensive end Tuitt shifts into high gear
- Rossi: Pirates foolish to bet on Burnett return
- McGinty officially a candidate for a Democratic U.S. Senate nomination
- Steelers notebook: No decision on surgery for rookie CB Golson
- Steelers’ Mitchell taking cautious approach about dealing with injuries
- Rain postpones Pirates-Cubs game
- Police: Florida man arrested for hitting, dragging Dunbar Township man with truck
- Thirsty pit bull turned on Arnold neighbors
- Authorities identify 2 men killed in fiery crash in Pittsburgh
- Obama’s Clean Power plan doesn’t change much; opponents remain firm
- Pitt’s Boyd, Blair suspended for Youngstown State game