Oakland Co. prosecutor speaking at schools about consequences of threats

School threats are no joke and the consequences are very serious. 

Assistant prosecutor Paul Walton is making the rounds to warn kids. His message is that whether they are joking or not - making a threat online or in person is a crime and you will be forced to pay.

From Plymouth Salem to Detroit to South Lyon, we have seen threats against schools in Metro Detroit sky rocket since the tragic school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

Walton has spent the last several years speaking to students about the consequences of online threats, but his message is in demand now more than ever.

"What we are doing is trying to go out and educate the community, educate the educators, educate the students that online behavior has real world consequences," he said. "If you decide to get engaged, but your tone is advocating violence, then law enforcement will treat it appropriately." 

Walton says the numbers speak for themselves - on average in Oakland County they prosecute six to 12 cases of making a terrorist threat per year. 

In less than two weeks - prosecutors are pursuing nine cases of threats made against schools.

"If someone is an adult and they engage in this kind of behavior which is posting a false report of an act of terrorism, that is a 20-year felony. If a juvenile engages in this sort of behavior, the court can take jurisdiction of the person until they are at least 19 years old."

Walton says there are many reasons why kids claim they make threats against schools - but their number one defense is “I was just joking."

This he says is nothing to laugh about. As soon as a student presses send, by law it's a threat.

"It is actually written into the statute with the fact that you didn't plan to carry this out, that you were in essence joking, is not a defense," he said.

Walton taught that lesson most recently at South Lyon Community Schools where a 17-year-old is accused of making a false threat. A friend went to authorities after he says Ryan Debruyne allegedly asked him on social media to take part in a Florida-style school shooting.

Police never found guns in the teen or his parents' possession, but he remains in custody and the reality is Debruyne could face up to 20 years in prison.

"Consequences extend beyond that - you are not going to get into a university," Walton said. "You are not going to get job you want and when they check your background, they will see you took part in an act deemed as a form of terrorism."

What else has changed? Walton says the prosecutor's office has encouraged law enforcement to track costs -  so they can force the student suspects and their families to pay restitution to tax payers.