OGDEN -- Juvenile Court Judge Janice Frost ruled Thursday that all future actions in her court will be open if they are connected with Joshua Hoggan, one of two youths charged with plotting to explode a bomb at Roy High School.
Frost said Utah law and the public's interest in her court's decisions outweigh whether Hoggan will be embarrassed, or his ability to be rehabilitated harmed, by public access.
Hoggan has an April 4 pre-trial conference, followed by a May 10 preliminary hearing.
The Weber County Attorney has already asked for a May 11 hearing to determine if Hoggan will be tried as an adult in 2nd District Court. That hearing will take place if Hoggan is bound over for trial in juvenile court May 10.
Hoggan, 16, is one of two Roy youths accused of plotting to set off a bomb at Roy High School. The other, Dallin Todd Morgan, 18, is awaiting a preliminary hearing in 2nd District Court.
Both are charged with possession of a weapon of mass destruction, a first-degree felony punishable by five years to life in prison.
Frost said her decision was based in large part on the huge impact the alleged crime would have had if the plot had succeeded.
"This is a case that potentially involved a great number of victims," she said, "so I believe there's a strong public interest in understanding these matters."
Frost also noted that, because Hoggan's alleged partner is being tried in adult court, much of the evidence against Hoggan is going to come out anyway. Any matters that still need to be kept private in Hoggan's case can be dealt with as they arise, she said.
In 1998, the Legislature passed a law that states, with juveniles 14 years old or older accused of crimes that would be felonies in adult court, there is a presumption the court actions will be public. The defense has to show cause why the case should not be public.
Hoggan's attorney, Scott Nickle, did file a motion to close court action in his case.
In response, a consortium of news media represented by attorney Michael O'Brien argued that the case needs to be open.
Nickle argued that public reporting of the case would hinder the primary purpose of Juvenile Court, which is to rehabilitate youthful offenders.
While the 1998 law does state that felony cases in juvenile court should be public, Nickle said, "the reason behind the ability to rehabilitate remains the same," and that should outweigh public interest.
He also said his defense case is likely to include psychological evaluations of Hoggan that need to be kept private. He said newspaper articles and media broadcasts could haunt Hoggan for years, preventing him from gaining employment.
"The court needs to look at how we are going to readapt this individual," Nickle said.
Finally, he said media coverage has already harmed his client because it has contained inaccuracies and sensationalized the case.
"We believe there was a release prematurely of the juvenile's name and the juvenile's image," he said, referring to Hoggan's name and picture that were run in some news media, including the Standard-Examiner, the day after the youth was arrested.
"We think they manipulated the information they had in this matter," Nickle said of the media.
O'Brien argued the charges against Hoggan meet the Legislature's requirement that the crime equal a felony in adult court. He said the argument that Hoggan and his family will be embarrassed if the case is public doesn't work, because every case has the potential to be embarrassing for the suspect.
"This has the huge potential to be the exception that devours the rule," O'Brien said.
He said the Legislature wanted felony juvenile cases open to media coverage so the public will know that the courts are handling such cases properly. Keeping it secret could give rise to conspiracy theories or doubts that the system is protecting the public.
"There's an important interest on the part of the public to understand where this case is resolved, as well as how it is resolved."