Michael Larkin, the 19-year-old Trenton resident allegedly involved in the Oct. 7 shooting hoax in Travers Hall, will not be serving any jail time. According to Casey DiBlasio of the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office, Larkin was accepted into New Jersey’s Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) program on Nov 28. The provisions of the program require him to perform 100 hours of community service, find employment and undergo a psychiatric evaluation.
The no-contact order prevents Larkin from coming onto the College campus and restricts him from approaching his reported former girlfriend, a Travers Hall resident.
According to DiBlasio, Larkin’s acceptance into the program is equivalent to a not guilty plea. Larkin had been charged with causing false public alarm.
According to njcourtsonline.com, the home page for the New Jersey Judiciary, the PTI program “provides defendants, generally first-time offenders, with opportunities for alternatives to the traditional criminal justice process of ordinary prosecution.”
The program is designed as a rehabilitative process to correct the behavior that led to the offense committed by the defendant. If the program is completed successfully, Larkin’s criminal record will be erased.
The Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office agreed to allow Larkin into the program on Nov. 28, saying he had no prior convictions as an adult.
“The office reviewed the case for any basis to object to PTI. As the court rules were written we had no basis to object,” DiBlasio said.
The PTI program is designed for first-time non-violent offenders who have committed third- or fourth-degree offenses. According to DiBlasio, Larkin has no prior criminal record as an adult. DiBlasio could not confirm or deny whether Larkin had been prosecuted for any crimes as a juvenile, as those files are sealed once a defendant turns 18.
According to DiBlasio, Larkin’s status as a known member of the Bloods street gang was not enough to deny him access to the program. However, if Larkin fails to meet the provisions set out by the program, he can still be prosecuted.
“If he does not complete any of the requirements or if he commits another offense during the program, the state can seek to terminate him from the program and prosecute him for the original charge,” DiBlasio said.
College administrators acknowledged the disruption caused by the hoax and said they will continue to enforce the no-contact order.
“There is no denying that the hoax . was a significant event on the campus,” College President R. Barbara Gitenstein said in an e-mail. “It resulted in tremendous upheaval to students, parents, staff and administration and resulted in a lot of fear.”
Gitenstein said the decision to issue Larkin a no-contact order with both the College and his “reported former girlfriend” was appropriate.
Matt Golden, director of Communications and Media Relations, agreed. “What he did, we take very very seriously, and we hope that it will be treated just as seriously by the legal system. Hopefully he follows the condition of the PTI to the letter of the law,” he said during a phone interview.
Gitenstein was unable to comment on the decision to admit Larkin into the PTI program.
“I am not in a position to comment knowledgeably on any other decision of the court on this matter,” she said.
Golden said the College’s recent security modifications, such as the 24-hour security desks in Travers and Wolfe halls, will remain in effect, adding that the College will remain steadfast in its efforts to protect students.
“We are going to continue to maintain very strict security. We have notified all the appropriate entities about his release and we have redistributed his identifying information to the appropriate offices and individuals,” Golden said.
According to Golden, the Attorney General’s office does not legally permit the College to distribute Larkin’s picture through postings around campus or via mass e-mail.
“We’re doing everything we can to treat this situation very prudently,” Golden said.
Golden added that both the office of the President and Campus Police were notified immediately of Larkin’s release.
Residents of Travers Hall expressed mixed feelings about Larkin’s release. Jaqueline Bossart, freshman international studies major, said she did not think Larkin’s release posed a significant threat to the College.
“Other students could just as easily pose a threat,” she said. Bossart added that she does not think the guards contracted by the College to monitor the Travers and Wolfe security desks have made an overall improvement in security.
Kyle Gesuelli, freshman finance major, said Larkin’s release poses a potential security threat to the College.
“He probably wants revenge,” Gesuelli said, adding that he feels less safe knowing of Larkin’s release.
Gesuelli also said the guards have done little to improve security. “The security guards barely look at your key and ID,” he said.
Julie Laracy, freshman nursing major, said if there was another breach of campus security it probably would not occur in Travers Hall.
“I don’t think (Larkin’s release) is that much of a threat,” Laracy said. “I don’t think they’d go for Travers again.”