Arkansas School Shooter Back In Hot Water

Mitchell Johnson and Andrew Golden were convicted in juvenile court of the 1998 shootings of four classmates and a teacher at Jonesboro Westside Middle School. CBS/AP

A man who helped shoot and kill five people during a schoolyard ambush as a young teenager pleaded not guilty Wednesday to a new weapons charge.

Mitchell Johnson, 23, appeared before a federal magistrate on one count of possession of a firearm while either a user or addicted to a controlled substance, said Debbie Groom, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Western District of Arkansas.

Police pulled over Johnson and another man in a traffic stop in January. Johnson was cited when authorities said he had marijuana and a firearm.

A state prosecutor later dropped the misdemeanor drug and weapon charges at the request of federal officials.

"It's a very unusual charge in my experience," said Federal Public Defender Jack Schisler, who represented Mitchell on Wednesday. He would not elaborate.

At the time he agreed to drop the state's misdemeanor charge against Johnson, Washington County prosecutor Brian Lamb said he thought it was because federal prosecutors wanted to charge Johnson with a more serious, felony crime. He said it was the first such request from federal prosecutors he had received.

Johnson and Andrew Golden were convicted in juvenile court of the 1998 shootings of four classmates and a teacher at Jonesboro Westside Middle School. The pair opened fire on students and teachers after Golden pulled the fire alarm. Johnson was then 13. Golden was 11.

Johnson was released from federal custody in 2005 when he turned 21. Golden turned 21 this year and was presumably released from federal custody, although authorities have not confirmed that, citing privacy laws.

Johnson was released on $5,000 bond and a trial date was set for Dec. 3. He faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted, Groom said.
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