ST. CHARLES TOWNSHIP – A Batavia teen, who had allegedly planned to commit mass murder with homemade bombs at Batavia High School, pleaded guilty today to one count of felony possession of explosives or incendiary devices in a plea agreement for 48 months of probation and six months of residential psychiatric treatment for schizophrenia.
Samuel Plenio, 17, of the 1100 block of Davey Drive, Batavia, had faced 14 charges, including terrorism and attempted first-degree murder, Class X felonies, the most serious in Illinois, with a penalty of six to 30 years in prison if convicted.
Instead of a hearing Thursday on whether he should be transferred from juvenile court to be tried as an adult, Plenio waived the hearing and sought the transfer to adult court.
Plenio was diagnosed with schizophrenia at the Kane County Diagnostic Center. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, schizophrenia is a mental illness that "interferes with a person’s ability to think clearly, manage emotions, make decisions and relate to others."
Kane County Associate Judge Salvatore LoPiccolo dismissed the juvenile charges and transferred Plenio, who was 16 at the time of his arrest on Nov. 29, to adult court.
LoPiccolo said 48 months was the maximum amount of probation for a Class 1 felony.
“If you were sentenced … it would be four to 15 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections or 15 to 30 years for an extended sentence,” LoPiccolo said.
As part of the agreement, Plenio will have to take all his medication, not use the internet except for schoolwork, not go to Batavia High School property, nor have contact with any staff or faculty or the school’s resource officer.
The teen must also not possess any explosives or incendiary devices at his residence, according to the agreement.
Plenio must report to a probation officer regularly, be subject to unannounced visits by that department and have a curfew once he returns home from residential treatment.
If he stops taking his medication or participating in treatment while at the facility, he would be returned to the Juvenile Justice Center until another facility is found, according to the agreement.
His parents are responsible to pay for his residential treatment and he is to pay $9,300 to cover costs and reimburse the Kane County Sheriff’s Office.
The search for explosives at Plenio’s house occurred when the FBI advised the Batavia Police Department that it had received a tip from a third party that someone in Batavia had purchased materials that when mixed together could be used in the creation of explosives.
In reading off the elements of the sole charge against Plenio, Assistant State’s Attorney Bridget Sabbia said the explosive compounds found at his house were going to be used at Batavia High School.
The FBI laboratory specifically identified the compounds the teen had. Also found at his home laboratory were PVC and metal pipes, ball bearings, end caps and detonators, Sabbia said.
Police found that Plenio had written in a notebook that he planned a "Dies irae" which is Latin for “Day of Wrath” in which he wanted to detonate bombs in the high school’s restrooms, throw molotov cocktails and a hand grenade down hallways and die in a suicide, Sabbia said.
Defense attorney Gary Johnson said his client had a home laboratory where all chemicals were labeled – and he would demonstrate experiments for his parents.
“They didn’t know what the chemicals meant,” Johnson said.
As to the role schizophrenia might have played in his behavior, Johnson said his parents had noticed him becoming withdrawn a couple of months before his arrest and had taken him for counseling – but mental illness had not been diagnosed until after his arrest.
“He has very loving and caring parents,” Johnson said. “He’s a lucky kid.”