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Judge sentences Pa. teen who planned attack, criticizes parents

| Thursday, Dec. 20, 2007

NORRISTOWN -- A 14-year-old boy who admitted that he planned a Columbine-style attack on a suburban Philadelphia high school was sentenced Wednesday to up to seven years in a juvenile treatment center.

Dillon Cossey will remain at the Western Pennsylvania facility until he turns 21, unless the courts deem he has been sufficiently rehabilitated before then, Montgomery County Judge Paul Tressler ruled.

The boy apologized in court for amassing a cache of weapons and plotting the assault on Plymouth Whitemarsh High School. Authorities do not think Cossey was close to pulling it off; he had no ammunition.

"I am very sorry, but I do want to get help," Cossey told the judge. "I also hope that me and my family as a whole can get help."

Tressler placed much of the blame for Cossey's troubles on his mother, Michele Cossey. He criticized her for doting on Dillon to the point of creating an "unhealthy relationship" with her son, and for instilling in him a "me and mom against the world" attitude.

"This kid has been so totally desocialized, he has no friends," Tressler said.

Looking directly at Michele Cossey, he said: "You want this kid dependent on you• Go buy a dog, go buy a pet."

Dillon Cossey was home-schooled and last attended public school in the seventh grade. He told a friend that he wanted to pull off an attack similar to the 1999 assault on Columbine High School in Colorado because "the world would be better off without bullies," according to prosecutors.

The friend then told authorities, who searched Cossey's Plymouth Township home on Oct. 11. They found a 9 mm rifle, about 30 air-powered guns modeled to look like higher-powered weapons, swords, knives, a bomb-making book, videos of the Columbine attack and violence-filled notebooks. Dillon Cossey testified Wednesday that he had been saving the guns for target practice.

The boy admitted in juvenile court Oct. 26 that he committed three felonies -- criminal solicitation, risking a catastrophe and possession of an instrument of crime.

Authorities have accused Michele Cossey of helping him build his weapons stash. She is awaiting trial on charges of illegally buying her son a .22-caliber handgun, a .22-caliber rifle and the 9 mm semiautomatic rifle.

The county district attorney, Bruce L. Castor Jr., called police and school officials to testify Wednesday about how the case had drained resources and created fear in the community.

"It raised the specter of everyone's worst nightmare," said Colonial School District school board president Marc Orlow. "It really sent shockwaves throughout the district."

The boy's father defended his son Wednesday and said he accepted responsibility as a parent.

"Dillon has a kind heart. He is a good person. He does need help," Frank Cossey testified. "We need help. As parents we made some wrong and bad decisions."

The judge ordered mental evaluations for both parents. Michele Cossey cried as Tressler made clear that reuniting the teen with his parents would depend as much on their efforts to change as it would on the boy's own rehabilitation.

"Your mother loves you, but she's not very good at being a mother," Tressler told the boy.

After the sentencing, Frank Cossey said he and his wife could become better parents and that they "probably deserved" the harsh words from the judge. His wife would not comment.

The boy's attorney, J. David Farrell, has said people he spoke with don't think Cossey would have followed through on his idea. Farrell has described the attack plan as a "fantasy that was beginning to cross the line."

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