Thursday , August 29, 2013 - 1:01 PM
SALT LAKE CITY — Prosecutors and defense lawyers said Thursday that a plea agreement is being negotiated to reduce the charges against a beauty queen accused of tossing homemade bottle bombs in Riverton.
Kendra McKenzie Gill, who relinquished her Miss Riverton title weeks ago because of her arrest, made her first court appearance in the case Thursday together with three friends. All face felony bomb possession charges.
The defendants, all 18 years old, weren’t required to enter a plea. Their next appearance was set for late next month.
Defense lawyers hope to get the charges reduced.
The case is being fast-tracked because none of the defendants have a criminal history, according lawyers and court officials.
One of Gill’s lawyers said felony charges are inappropriate because the incident that involved driving around neighborhoods Aug. 2 and tossing plastic bottles filled with a toilet bowl cleaner was “a prank.”
“I hope that calm heads prevail,” defense attorney Wally Bugden told The Associated Press. “These bombs — that’s an unfortunate word — were not intended to harm anybody.”
No one was injured, and initial reports by a fire marshal that the bottles contained shrapnel were incorrect, he said.
“They are all honor students who have never been in trouble before, all good kids,” Bugden said. “Charging this as a felony is way out of proportion. They did it because she’s a pretty girl and a pageant queen.”
A prosecutor said the matter was serious, but he confirmed that plea negotiations were underway.
“We took it seriously,” prosecuting attorney Blake Nakamura said. “This happened in a residential area. In one location there were people nearby when these devices exploded. They had the capacity to cause physical harm. This is not tossing bombs in the desert where nobody’s around.”
The other young adults charged in the case are John Patrick Reagh, Shanna Marie Smith and Bryce Christopher Stone.
All four were ordered to appear in court Sept. 26 for a scheduling conference.
Gill announced Aug. 14 she was relinquishing her crown before pageant officials could strip her of it.
“I just thought that it would be best for the city of Riverton and all the people affected by our decision and my choice, to just step down and resign from my position and let someone else take it from here,” she told KSL-TV.
She added, “We didn’t know that it would get to this point. We meant for it to be a practical joke and never had any intentions to harm anyone at all.”
Gill topped a slate of nine beauty contestants in June in Riverton, showing off years of piano training with a Scott Joplin number and taking home a $2,000 scholarship.
Contestants in the pageant — which is a preliminary of the Miss Utah and Miss America competitions — are required to sign a contract certifying they have not been convicted of a crime and don’t have criminal charges pending against them. Pageant officials can revoke a title if a contestant is criminally charged during her reign.
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