Teen pleads not guilty in Prairie High gun case

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter

Published:

Updated: January 24, 2013, 7:29 PM

 

A 19-year-old Prairie High School senior pleaded not guilty Thursday to bringing a handgun to school.

Jase A. Vesterby was charged via video conference in Clark County District Court with gross misdemeanor possessing a dangerous weapon on school grounds.

Judge Sonya Langsdorf held him without bail pending a mental health evaluation. She scheduled a hearing for Monday before Judge John Hagensen to review the results of the evaluation and determine whether he may be released from the Clark County Jail.

Vesterby appeared on video with his defense attorney, Bill Whitehall, who spoke on his behalf.

Unlike felony suspects who appear in person in Superior Court, in-custody suspects in District Court appear via video conference from jail, said Senior Deputy Prosecutor Kasey Vu. Vu said the practice is more efficient because inmates don’t have to be moved, and no custody officers are needed in the courtroom.

Vesterby wore a green suicide smock, designed so that inmates can’t fashion it into a noose, and sat slumped in a chair with his arms crossed for most of the hearing.

Vu said during the hearing Thursday that Vesterby has had suicidal inclinations. He declined to elaborate after the hearing.

If convicted, he faces up to 364 days in jail and an $85,000 fine.

Vesterby is accused of bringing the weapon to school a couple of weeks ago, and multiple students later alerted Prairie’s school resource officer, Deputy Dwaine Bowden.

Battle Ground Public Schools officials said on Wednesday there was no indication he brought the weapon to school intending to use it and didn’t threaten anyone with it.

Bowden interviewed students and eventually contacted Vesterby at his home Wednesday afternoon and arrested him. He was booked into jail the same day.

He also was expelled from school in an “emergency expulsion” procedure.

Whitehall said his client has no criminal record.

Prairie High School Principal Jason Perrins sent an automated voice message on Wednesday to parents of Prairie High School students, letting them know about the incident. He also praised the students who came forward with the information.