School Bomb Prankster Strikes Deal

Instead of facing felony charges, Elphbert Laforteza struck a plea deal with prosecutors, avoiding jail time

By R. Stickney and Monica Dean
|  Thursday, Aug 20, 2009  |  Updated 4:04 PM PDT
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Bomb Prank Suspect Speaks

Laforteza, in court August 20, pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors connected to the planned prank at San Ysidro High School in June 2009.

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Soda Bombs Readiness

Former San Ysidro High School honor student accused of bringing homemade bottle bombs to school was back in court.

Bomb Prank Suspect Speaks

Elphbert Laforteza, a local high school student accused of setting off homemade explosive devices at his school, apologized Friday to everyone he let down.
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The former San Ysidro High School student who brought homemade bottle bombs to school as part of a senior prank has avoided jail time.

If convicted of the felony charges first levied against him, Elphbert Laforteza, 18, would've faced six years in prison.  On Thursday, he pleaded guilty in front of Judge Esteban Hernandez to two misdemeanor charges. As a result of the plea deal, Laforteza will serve 3 years probation with credit for time served. He’ll also have 30 days of public work service that he has to complete by June 30, 2010.

Laforteza, a former honor student, star athlete had publically admitted to bringing a dozen homemade bottle bombs to San Ysidro High School in June.

San Ysidro High School went into lockdown on June 5 after six bottle bombs exploded.  Several plastic bottles containing some type of acid and another unidentified substance were set in trash cans a few feet from where students were having lunch. No one was hurt, but the bombs were big enough to have hurt or possibly killed someone, investigators said.

After his arrest on three felony counts that included possession of a destructive device., Laforteza expressed remorse for his actions.

“I feel like I’ve let down everybody who has been really close to me: my parents, who have been there through everything, all my friends, the student body that has looked up to me and, especially, my teachers, who have done nothing but help me, teach me everything that they could,” Laforteza said a few days after the incident.

After Thursday's hearing, a subdued and stoic Laforteza said he’s relieved and looking forward to getting on with his education, cracking a small smile.

He had an ROTC scholarship and acceptance letters to colleges revoked. He did receive his diploma but did not "walk" with the rest of his class during graduation ceremonies.

While his classmates are likely beginning college, Laforteza will start school next week, most likely at a community college while also undergoing a course of treatment offered by the Burn Institute. It’s a serious of seminars to teach the dangers of playing explosives.

Outside court, Laforteza's mother had tears in her eyes while watching her son speak to reporters. His father was deployed last week as a sailor aboard USS Nimitz so Laforteza will be calling his father to let him know the outcome of the case. He expects his father will be relieved.

"We're very pleased with the deal. We think this was the right thing to do. We want people to know this was not just a prank. People could have been seriously hurt by the devices Mr. Laforteza brought to school, fortunately, no one was," said Mary Loeb, Deputy DA. " We think the punishment was appropriate."
 

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