Terrorism charges against Virginia Beach teens dropped

Michael Coleman (Southside Daily photo/Courtesy of Virginia Beach Police)

VIRGINIA BEACH — Two teens charged with conspiracy to commit terrorism have each had those charges dropped, said Macie Allen, spokeswoman for the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office.

Allen cited “insufficient evidence” as the reason prosecutors dropped the charges, but also left the door open for future action.

“There is no statute of limitations on felonies in Virginia,” Allen said, and prosecutors could reinstate charges at a later date if more evidence becomes available.

Police received a tip May 30 that two people were trying to buy tickets to a high school prom but they were not students at that school. Police later arrested Michael Coleman, 18, and a 17-year-old boy on June 9 at the Bayside High School prom at the Westin in Town Center.

During a news conference on June 11, Virginia Beach Police Chief James Cervera said officers found a .45 caliber semiautomatic rifle, a loaded magazine and an additional box of ammunition inside a hotel room that investigators believe was rented by one of the suspects. That’s in addition to the 9mm Taurus pistol one of the suspects allegedly discarded while he was being chased by officers.

RELATED STORY: Two arrested in connection with ‘terror threats’ during high school prom at Town Center

Cervera announced during the conference that Coleman would be charged with two counts of possession of a concealed weapon and one count of conspiracy to commit terrorism, while the juvenile would be charged with possession of a handgun by juvenile and underage possession of alcohol.

While the conspiracy charges have been dropped against Coleman and the juvenile, the other charges remain, Allen said.

In a statement, police officials said: “Based upon the evidence recovered at the Westin Hotel, law enforcement and school officials in Virginia Beach strongly believe police officers prevented a possible tragedy at the Bayside prom.”

Police said they consulted with prosecutors “where all current evidence was reviewed.”

“Though the standard for probable cause for arrest was met, prosecutors feel that at this time, the evidence against Coleman and the juvenile are not sufficient to meet the high burden of proof (beyond a reasonable doubt) in a criminal trial,” police wrote in the statement.

Officials noted that “Coleman and the juvenile remain under investigation by detectives who will continue to work with prosecutors.”

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