Teen prank leads to felony charge

July 5, 2011 at 1:11 PM

RUSHVILLE, Ind., July 5 (UPI) -- Supporters say an Indiana teenager who faces serious charges for a prank that led to a lockdown at a high school is being treated unfairly because he is black.

Tyell Morton has admitted leaving a blow-up doll, a sex toy, in a girls' bathroom at Rushville High School on May 31, the Indianapolis Star reported. But a janitor who saw a figure wearing gloves and a hooded sweatshirt leaving the building reported an intruder, setting off a three-hour search for possible explosives.

Morton is described as a good student. Until his arrest, he had no criminal history, but he spent five days in jail while his family struggled to raise bail.

He now faces a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct and a more serious count, institutional criminal mischief, a felony that carries a potential sentence of two to eight years.

Family members said Morton received his diploma but was barred from the graduation ceremony.

Rush County Prosecutor Philip Caviness has already said he does not intend to seek a prison term for Morton. But critics say the teen should not face a felony charge.

Institutional criminal mischief becomes a felony when the damage is more than $2,500, which in Morton's case was calculated based on time lost during the lockdown. But some lawyers say the state law was aimed a serious physical damage.

Leonard Pitts of The Miami Herald suggested in a syndicated column the handling of the case is racially motivated.

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