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Court upholds restitution for man who made threat against school 

Correction: This article was changed to correctly identify "ADA" as  "average daily attendance". 

A man convicted of planning and executing an elaborate threat that shut down San Gabriel Elementary School for two weeks in 2015 will not see a reduction in the hundreds of thousands of dollars he's required to pay in restitution.

A California appellate court's Feb. 4 ruling essentially upheld the $235,341 judgment against Bret Stephen Landen, 21, of Atascadero, who was convicted of threatening to use a weapon of mass destruction and making criminal threats in connection with the 2015 incident. However, the judge ordered that a portion of the money will go to the state of California instead of the Atascadero Unified School District.

Landen, who was 18 at the time of the incident, was arrested after he set up an elaborate "game" at the elementary school on Sept. 11, 2015. According to investigators, he left notes for teachers at the school, urging them to play the "game" and asking them to locate different sets of keys. Some were located in a container zip-tied to a nearby fence and were filled with what was determined to be a mix of sodium and cyanide. The notes stated that there would be "consequences ... possibly affecting the children" if his instructions were not followed.

"This was not a harmless prank," the appeals court stated in the decision.

Landen was sentenced to one year in jail and ordered to pay restitution after pleading no contest to the charges against him in April 2016. The restitution money covered a number of expenses the school and district incurred due to the incident, such as $2,778 to rekey San Gabriel classrooms and $32,585 for chemical testing.

Those costs also included $68,722 in restitution to make up for the loss of funding from average daily attendance (ADA) the district should have received during the two weeks the school was shut down due to the incident. Because the state of California eventually reimbursed the district for that ADA money, the appeals court ruled that Landen should pay the $68,722 to the state instead of the district.

"The amount of restitution [Landen] must pay does not change," the ruling stated.

Landen's appeal attempted to make the argument that the amount of the restitution should be reduced because his threat was only made against San Gabriel Elementary School and not the district. The court however, was not swayed by the claims.

"But San Gabriel school is part of the district, and Landen minimizes the impact of his actions on the district," the ruling stated. Δ

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