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Federal WMD Charge In S.C. Bomb Plot

Ryan Schallenberger, 18, a student accused of planning a bomb attack on Chesterfield High School, in Chesterfield, S.C., stands before a judge, as he is assigned a court appointed attorney, Monday, April 21, 2008. Schallenberger was arrested Saturday after his parents called police because the teen had ordered 10 pounds of ammonium nitrate, which they'd retrieved after getting a delivery notice from the postal service, authorities said Monday. (AP Photo/Brett Flashnick)
AP
An 18-year-old accused of planning to bomb his high school was charged Tuesday with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, which carries a possible life sentence, as more details of his potentially deadly plans emerged.

Ryan Schallenberger's journal contained an entry made last month that contained a timeline for an attack that included how he would lock his school's doors and where he would place more than five explosives in the building, prosecutor Jay Hodge said during a court hearing for the teen.

"The kid needs help, but this is a violent offense," Hodge said. "You can't put an entire community in fear and just walk away. In this situation, society requires jail time. There's no way to excuse or forgive what he did."

Hodge urged a mental evaluation for the Schallenberger, whom authorities have described as a straight-A student who has seemed confused since his arrest. Cuffed and shackled, the skinny teen with the wispy mustache smiled and gave a quick wave Tuesday to courtroom spectators who included his parents and some classmates.

Court-appointed lawyer William Spencer said the teen doesn't want to post bond or have a mental evaluation. He said that after meeting with Schallenberger a day earlier, he believed his client was competent to defend himself and understand the charge against him.

During the hearing in Chesterfield, prosecutors formally requested to change their charge from making a bomb threat to possession of bomb-making material, which carries a sentence of two to 15 years in prison. The federal charges will take precedent, however, and Schallenberger was whisked to a federal courtroom some 50 miles away to face those accusations and meet another defense lawyer.

Schallenberger was arrested Saturday after his parents called police because he had ordered 10 pounds of ammonium nitrate through eBay, authorities said. Ammonium nitrate is a fertilizer that was a component in the deadly 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

But CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann reports that by the time Schallenberger's parents began to seek help for their son, the bomb-making supplies that he had ordered using the Internet were already in the mail.

Authorities have said Schallenberger could have assembled deadly bombs within minutes with the materials they found. Police said they also the bombing plans in the journal including a hand-drawn map of the school, and the hate-filled diary lauded the Columbine killers. They also said they found an audiotape that Schallenberger wanted played after he died.

Hodge on Tuesday said the 50-page journal also contained some attempts at self-analysis and that the teen knew that what he was planning was wrong. "He had a temper," the prosecutor said.

The journal did not name a specific target for an attack nor did it specify whom Schallenberger wanted to harm.

Ashley Waters, one of Schallenberger's classmates, told the CBS Early Show, "What he did is completely out of his character. He's really nice, he talks to everybody, everybody talks to him. Nobody picks on him, so we don't really know what's going on."

Schallenberger's mother and stepfather, John and Laurie Sittley, sat behind him in the courtroom, his stepfather shielding their faces from the media with a white envelope. They have not commented publicly about the case and rushed from the courtroom after the hearing, but authorities have described them as heartbroken over the arrest. Their phone number is unlisted and their home off a dirt road about 10 miles from the school has "No Trespassing" signs posted.

Kevin McDonald, the acting U.S. attorney for South Carolina, said the federal weapons charge comes into play mostly because Schallenberger ordered materials that can be used for bombs through the mail. An EBay spokeswoman said the company is cooperating with the investigation and did nothing illegal.

Schallenberger also faces two lesser federal charges: attempting to use explosives on a building that gets federal funding, and using interstate commerce to obtain explosives to be used against people and property.

Hanna Huntley, an 18-year-old classmate who attended the hearing, discounted descriptions of Schallenberger as a loner in their school of 544 students.

"He had plenty of friends. He was a likable person. He was the type of person that, if you weren't happy that day, he'd make you smile. That's why it was such a shock. He obviously kept all this bottled up," she said, describing how he made people laugh in her history class last year by singing songs from the cartoon SpongeBob SquarePants.

School officials said three-quarters of the students attended school Tuesday, a day after more than half did not show up.

Chesterfield is a town of about 1,500 people in northeastern South Carolina near the North Carolina line.