DADE CITY — George Adams is the kind of teen described by his elders as "a fine young man" who helps the neighbors in his grandparents' retirement community with yard work and clubhouse activities.
That's one George Adams.
The other one, authorities say, is socially dysfunctional and emotionally disturbed. He was kicked out of Zephyrhills High School for making up a story about someone threatening him with a gun. At his next school, Moore Mickens Education Center, his rage took over one day last August, when he ripped an evacuation map off the wall and drew a plot to shoot up the school. He showed it to other students, vowing to come back with a gun and kill everyone.
The incident sent a wave of terror through the school. Administrators had to hold assemblies and mail letters assuring students and parents there was never a gun on campus.
Adams, 16, was expelled and arrested.
He came to court on Wednesday, dressed in a suit and accompanied by the grandparents who are raising him, to resolve his case. He pleaded guilty to making written threats to harm or kill and disrupting a school function — crimes that could have sent him to prison for 15 years.
But he had no deal on a sentence. That was left to the judge.
The prosecutor asked for prison time — two years.
"We can't take a chance that something like this is not going to happen," Assistant State Attorney Stacey Sumner said.
Adams' attorney argued for probation. His grandfather, Ronald Solt, told the judge that Adams' schoolwork and behavior have improved since the incident. He is working on his GED at Career Central, another alternative school in Zephyrhills.
"We weren't doing very well prior to this," Solt said.
Circuit Judge Pat Siracusa combed through a pre-sentence report that told of the polite young man in the retirement community, but also of the troubled teen labeled immature and socially inept by a psychologist.
"It's like there's two George Adamses out there," Siracusa said.
In the end, the judge opted for rehabilitation over incarceration, sentencing Adams to 10 years of probation with numerous conditions.
No going out after 9 p.m. No alcohol or tattoos. No owning or handling any weapons. No using the Internet except for school.
Adams must go to work or school 40 hours a week and perform 20 hours of community service a month. He must receive mental health counseling.
And he has to listen to his grandparents, who have raised him since age 2 when his mother abandoned him.
"Mr. Adams, I'm taking a great chance on you," the judge said. "Please, don't let them down."
Molly Moorhead can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6245.