Plea deal for note writer

Zoe Sawyers, 18, leaves court Monday morning after pleading guilty to one felony count of interfering with an educational institution and one misdemeanor count of threats and intimidation after an April 27th note was found in a girls bathroom at Flagstaff High School threatening a shooting at the school.

Jake Bacon, Arizona Daily Sun

A teen charged with writing a threatening note in a Flagstaff High School bathroom in April will have jail time deferred after pleading guilty Monday.

Zoe Sawyers, 18, pled guilty to one felony count of interfering with an educational institution and one misdemeanor count of threats and intimidation. The note on the bathroom wall said "Shooting. 1:20 p.m." and came after six threatening notes dating back to March had been found.

The plea deal with the Coconino County Attorney came in Coconino County Superior Court in front of Division 5 Superior Court Judge Cathleen Brown Nichols.

The deal requires Sawyers to complete a mental health court program, complete her probation and pay restitution of up to $3,780 to the Flagstaff Unified School District.

If she successfully completes her plea requirements the court will drop her felony count since Judge Nichols agreed to defer that charge.

If Sawyers does not complete her plea requirements she would be required to serve jail time for both charges.

According to police reports, Sawyers admitted to writing a note on the bathroom wall in black marker on April 27, a week after the Columbine anniversary. She told police that she wrote the note to avoid an English assignment. She was also the person who alerted police to the note.

A witness reported Sawyers in the girls’ bathroom 10 minutes before the note was discovered acting strangely and leaving the bathroom without using it.

Video surveillance footage also shows Sawyers walking by the bathroom with a friend and then waving the friend off when she tried to go inside.

She denied  involvement in writing any of the other six notes, some of which referred to the Columbine High School massacre and resulted in a lockdown on one occasion and the cancellation of some after-school activities. Flagstaff police stationed an officer at the school through the remainder of the school year. 

Judge Nichols said that she had seen interviews with Flagstaff Police Detectives saying that they had no indication that Sawyers was involved in writing any of the other notes. No other suspects have been arrested.

The incident occurred while Sawyers was a minor; however, the county attorney waited until she turned 18 to charge her as an adult.

Coconino County Attorney William Ring said his office charged her as an adult because programs such as mental health court are not available to juveniles.

Faculty at Flagstaff High School and FUSD were notified of the plea deal and did not object to the terms.

Sawyers' sentencing, which will determine her probation time and restitution amount, is set for October.

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Max Lancaster is the crime and courts reporter for the Arizona Daily Sun. He enjoys all things music and just learned how Kombucha is made.

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