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Pinellas student accused of stabbing officer pleads guilty to firebomb charges

LARGO — Kenny Stoltman, the 13-year-old accused of stabbing a school resource officer and bringing gasoline bombs to his Palm Harbor middle school in April, has pleaded guilty to charges of possession of firebombs, according to records released Friday.

Stoltman was ordered into a residential mental health facility for juveniles in Orlando, where he is still being held.

The boy still faces charges of attempted murder and battery on a School Board employee from the April 5 incident in which he's accused of stabbing Pinellas County schools police Officer Kenneth Fridlund three times.

A transcript of Stoltman's May 27 juvenile court hearing was released to the St. Petersburg Times by order of Pinellas-Pasco Chief Judge Thomas McGrady after a hearing Monday. The Times had sought access to a recording made of the hearing, but a court official said state law made that record confidential. After a request by the Times and a waiver of confidentiality by the boy's lawyer, Barry Cohen, McGrady ordered that a transcript be made public.

At the hearing, a child psychologist told the judge that Stoltman had been a "model detainee" during his time at the Pinellas County Juvenile Detention Center. Adele Solazzo also told the judge that an Orlando center would better suit Stoltman's needs because it would deliver the intensive therapy he requires.

Circuit Judge Jack Day agreed to place Stoltman in the Orlando facility after ordering a series of provisions, including that Stoltman will not be allowed any home visits without permission from the court; he cannot possess any weapons; and he can't be released without a court hearing until his other criminal charges are addressed.

Stoltman's trial on the remaining charges has been postponed until September, said his lawyer, who hopes to reach an agreement with prosecutors before then.

"I want to see how he does, let the state see how he does (in treatment)," Cohen said. "It's not the kind of case I think should be tried. That's not going to help the state. It's not going to help him."

Pinellas-Pasco Chief Assistant State Attorney Bruce Bartlett wasn't available for comment Friday.

Prosecutors at the May hearing objected to the agreement, partly because they questioned how it could affect the resolution of the remaining charges, which are more serious and could warrant more severe penalties.

But the presiding judge, Day, said there was nothing to stop the boy from pleading to some charges now and dealing with others later.

"I fully understand the state attorneys' mindset …," Cohen said. "But when you look at the juvenile court system, when you look at its philosophy and purpose, you have a system in place designed to determine what causes this kind of acting-out behavior and to see if you can't preserve the good and the vulnerabilities of a young kid."

The order doesn't specify how long Stoltman will be held at the Orlando facility, but Solazzo said the average length of stay is six months. Cohen expects Stoltman will be held as long as it takes to convince authorities that he's no longer a danger to the public.

Stoltman was an accomplished Boy Scout without any criminal history before he brought 11 glass bottles full of gas into a boys' bathroom at Carwise Middle School. When Fridlund approached him, Stoltman lunged at the officer and stabbed him in the abdomen, shoulder and arm, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. He then struggled violently to unholster the veteran officer's gun.

Cohen said he doesn't believe Stoltman ever intended to kill the officer and instead tried to get the gun so he could use it on himself.

Stoltman came from an abusive and neglectful background and was abandoned by his mother, Cohen said. But when he moved in with his maternal grandmother several years ago, he began to flourish. Teachers interviewed by detectives said Stoltman had always been a conscientious, respectful and hard-working child.

Cohen said his client snapped that April morning from internalizing his early life stresses and not having suitable coping skills to deal with bullying at school.

Cohen said he has heard Stoltman is doing well at the facility and said he believes it's the best place to rehabilitate his client and offer him a chance at a successful future. "He's going to get his treatment and become the kind of kid he's always been."

Pinellas student accused of stabbing officer pleads guilty to firebomb charges 06/24/11 [Last modified: Friday, June 24, 2011 11:00pm]
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