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Hearing Reveals Dark Details On Accused Perry Hall Student Shooter

A hearing to decide whether 15-year-old Robert Gladden will be charged as an adult or juvenile will continue Thursday morning.

UPDATE (Jan. 31, 12 a.m.)—A Wednesday court hearing to determine the state of charges against 15-year-old Robert W. Gladden, Jr. revealed dark details about his childhood years and academic history. 

Gladden is accused of opening fire inside Perry Hall High School's cafeteria on the first day of school and seriously injuring another student. He was charged as an adult with nine counts of first-degree attempted murder, among other charges, in the Aug. 27 incident.

Testimony Wednesday revealed that as a young boy, Gladden was exposed to suicide and death, and exhibited threatening behavior and suicidal thoughts.

Baltimore County Assistant State's Attorney John Cox also cited several examples of Gladden bullying his peers and showing morally insensitive behavior. At one point, Cox played audio of Gladden seemingly making a joke about wishing he had participated in the December shooting inside Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. 

Lutherville attorney George Psoras passionately argued that Gladden should be tried as a juvenile, that his court record should be sealed, and that he should be transported to a high security juvenile treatment facility outside of Maryland until he is 21 years old.

Psoras insisted that Gladden be transported out of state because there are no high security juvenile treatment facilities in Maryland that hold juveniles convicted of violent crimes involving guns.

"This is not Columbine. This is not Newtown. This is a young man who made a horrible mistake," Psoras said.

"Bobby was immature. Bobby was sick. Bobby has mental illness," he said.

"To put him away for life would be a horrible tragedy," he said.

Psoras argued that Gladden will not receive the appropriate treatment, and will be raped and beaten if sent to an adult prison.

Cox and his team attempted to show that Gladden could remain a threat to society and may not be ready to reenter society at 21 years old, and would be better suited for a longer sentence in adult prison.

Case Workers Tell Of Gladden's Troubled Formative Years

During the hearing's first half, between 9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m., Psoras and Cox questioned two case workers who reviewed and evaluated Gladden.

Danni Davis, a case worker within Baltimore County's department of juvenile services, described in detail some of the disturbing events from Gladden's childhood and teenage years, what she described as "how Bobby got to this point."

In elementary school he was diagnosed with ADHD for impulsive behavior and received help with speech problems. During this time, Gladden's cousin committed suicide on nearby railroad tracks, "which made him wonder if committing suicide would solve problems," Davis said.

When Gladden was 11, his maternal aunt died of carbon monoxide poisoning, which caused him great sadness and suicidal thoughts, Davis said.

Later, after his parents divorced, his uncle became a father figure to him. This same uncle committed suicide by shooting himself in front of his family in 2011, Davis said.

Gladden also showed a history of cutting himself and showed some physical aggression toward his mother, Davis said.

Kimberly Fisher, a second worker within Baltimore County's department of juvenile services, also testified of Gladden's multiple suspensions from school.

An expulsion in sixth grade eventually led to Gladden being moved to an alternative school for troubled youth, Crossroads Center in White Marsh. The school featured a later start-time and a short-term rewards system. Gladden's grades and behavior dramatically improved. He was returned to a mainstream program at Perry Hall High School in ninth grade. 

Problems returned in ninth grade, however. Gladden was disciplined for making gruesome and profane death threats on Facebook to a fellow student who had come out as transsexual. That particular Facebook conversation included a reference that "something bad would happen at Perry Hall High at the end of 12th grade," Fisher said.

A report from Gladden's stay at a county mental treatment facility after the shooting also showed that he would laugh and smile while talking about guns, and showed controlling and abusive behavior toward other patients, Fisher said.

Doctors Discuss Gladden's Potential For Treatment, Recovery

As the hearing continued into the late afternoon, the dialogue shifted from examples of Gladden as a troubled teenage victim to examples of Gladden acting as a bully and morally insensitive individual. 

Cox argued that Gladden suffers from a clinical conduct disorder, which would likely manifest itself in continued violent behavior into adulthood. Due to public safety concerns, Cox argued that Gladden should be tried and eventually convicted as an adult. 

"It's safe to say that anyone who shoots up a school cafeteria has a conduct disorder," Cox said. 

Throughout testimony, Psoras repeatedly disputed that conclusion. 

Two doctors testified during the Wednesday portion of the hearing about Gladden's mental state: Dr. James Smith, who performed a psychological analysis on behalf of Baltimore County, and Dr. Aaron Noonberg, who performed a separate psychological analysis on behalf of the defense. 

Smith interacted with Gladden in the months following the shooting and made his final evaluation before Gladden began a full regimen of anti-depressant drugs. Noonberg, however, first met and evaluated Gladden just days before the hearing, on Jan. 27. 

The two doctors agreed on several points—that Gladden exhibited an average to above average IQ, that he held a disdain for school and lack of motivation, and that he felt life was generally boring and pointless. 

Smith confirmed records showing that while being hospitalized and held in a short-term treatment program, Gladden discussed plans for suicide, picked fist fights, bullied peers and attempted to intimidate facility workers. 

Smith also confirmed that Gladden had admitted to lying to a mental health worker at age 12 in order to avoid treatment for suicidal thoughts.

He also confirmed that Gladden had a history of acting out of societal norms. As a young teen, he attempted to sell oregono as marajuana at school. He also missed dozens of school days between elementary school and high school. 

Based on Gladden's reported behavior before and after the shooting, Smith said he was skeptical that the standard short-term treatment for troubled juveniles would be sufficient for Gladden. 

"It may need to extend past 21," Smith said. 

Noonberg, however, disagreed with Smith's evaluation, and argued that five and a half years of treatment at a secure juvenile detention center outside of Maryland—"where he has no escape"—would likely prepare Gladden for peaceful reentry into society. It would also save him from the possible dangers of adult prison, he said.

Noonberg said that examples of Gladden acting as a bully were not unusual for his age and mental state, and had been overblown by the prosecution. He argued that Gladden was probably not experiencing a mental state as severe as a conduct disorder. 

He also cited dramatic improvements in Gladden's frequency of suicidal thoughts since he began taking the anti-depressant Prozac. 

"My evaluation is favorable to good after five to six years of treatment," Noonberg said. 

As Noonberg had just met Gladden days before the hearing, Cox argued that he did not have enough time or put forth enough effort to properly evaluate Gladden. 

Cox also played an audio recording for Noonberg of Gladden speaking with a cousin on the phone from the detention center where he was being held. 

The call was made on Dec. 16, and Gladden made reference to the Dec. 14 shooting inside Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut that killed 20 children and six staff members. 

Gladden seemed to make a joke about how he wished he had gone to the school along with the shooter. "I wish I went too," he said in the phone call. Immediately afterward, Gladden's cousin reprimanded him for saying that in a recorded phone call. 

While Noonberg claimed that Gladden had probably only said that to get a rise out of his cousin, Cox argued that it was one of several examples of his propensity toward continued violent behavior. 

Gladden, Audience Await Hearing Result, Anticipate Trial

Gladden appeared at the hearing wearing a blue striped shirt and black pants with shackled ankles. His hair appeared longer than in his original booking photo, taken in August. It was no longer dyed black and appeared naturally brown.

Gladden did not speak during the hearing and rested his arms on the table in front of him.

Several people attending the hearing cried and whispered during testimonies.

At the close of the juvenile waiver hearing, Baltimore County Circuit Court Judge Robert Cahill, Jr. is expected to make a final decision on whether Gladden will continue to be charged as an adult or be tried as a juvenile. If tried as a juvenile, Gladden could face significantly less jail time and media scrutiny, Cox said previously.

The result of the hearing is expected to be announced sometime on Thursday. 

The beginning of Gladden's criminal trial has been scheduled for Feb. 19.

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