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Psychiatry Factors In Sentencing of Teen Who Brought Weapons To School

Psychiatry Factors In Sentencing of Teen Who Brought Weapons To School

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BEAUFORT COUNTY, S.C. - Instead of spending 20 years in prison, Austin Almeida will spend up to five years behind bars for bringing weapons to school, then spend another five years on probation seeking treatment for Asperger Syndrome.

“I was going to chop people up into little bits and set them on fire,” Almeida said in the video of his interview with Bluffton police in May.

Almeida admitted to bringing a Glock, 12 knives, and gasoline to Bluffton High School on May 1, 2013. He had plans of unleashing fury on classmates and a teacher.

“It was a very, in my opinion, callous nature that he referenced his plan on doing violence,” said Deputy Solicitor Sean Thornton. The prosecution showed Almeida’s interview with police to a courtroom in the sentencing on Friday.

“…Possibly make them form a line, try to disable them you know…shots to the thigh and shoulder, things they wouldn’t be running from. Then I was going to get the knives,” Almeida confessed to police.

The then 17 year old did not go through with his plans. However, the prosecution expressed their concern that Almeida could be a risk in the future.

"I felt that it was a very serious case, obviously, from the sheer number of weapons, to the specificity of the plan," Thornton said.

Thornton told Judge Cooper, “Mr. Almeida frankly terrorizes me.”

The defense says the video shows nothing other than a form of autism that went undiagnosed.

"The video showed the symptom of the mental illness. The video didn't show his soul or his character. It showed him using words without understanding how other people understood them. And that's what Asperger's children do," said Attorney Sam Bauer.

Before the sentence was read, Almeida apologized to the judge in a written letter. His mother stood before the court and promised therapy for her son.

"If he had gotten the correct treatment, we believe nothing would have happened. There would not have been any kind of crime committed," Bauer said.

Now, the judge’s probation condition of treatment in those five years stands. If he fails to get help, he could go back behind bars for 10 years.

"Austin, who both the state and defense psychologists agree, has a mental condition and will finally get the treatment to protect the community from any danger in the future," Bauer said.

News 3 did some checking and found that although symptoms are present early in life, Asperger Syndrome, is usually diagnosed when a child is school aged, according to the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention. As with other autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), scientists do not know exactly what causes Asperger Syndrome, but health experts says that the brain of someone with the disorder functions differently than someone without it.

People with Asperger Syndrome have problems with social, emotional, and communication skills, as well as unusual behaviors and interests. The CDC points out that patients might exhibit some of the following habits and behaviors:

*Have trouble understanding other people’s feelings

or talking about their own feelings.

*Have a hard time understanding body language.

*Avoid eye contact.

*Want to be alone; or want to interact, but not know how.

*Have narrow, sometimes obsessive, interests.

*Talk only about themselves and their interests.

*Speak in unusual ways or with an odd tone of voice.

*Have a hard time making friends.

*Seem nervous in large social groups.

*Be clumsy or awkward.

*Have rituals that they refuse to change, such as a very

rigid bedtime routine.

*Develop odd or repetitive movements.

*Have unusual sensory reactions.

Health experts say with appropriate services and support, people with Asperger syndrome can make progress in managing or overcoming these challenges and can learn to emphasize their strengths.

To find out whom to call in your area about these services, contact the National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities at or call the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at 1-800-232-4636. . CDC also has links to resources for families at

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