Lawyer for accused West Liberty school shooter moves to close hearing

The attorney for the alleged West-Liberty Salem school shooter wants a competency hearing for his client to be held behind closed doors.

Defense attorney Dennis Lieberman, who represents Ely Serna in the attempted murder case, filed a motion in Champaign County Juvenile Court requesting the public not be allowed in the courtroom during the hearing Friday.

Serna, 17, is accused of sneaking a shot gun into West Liberty-Salem High School on Jan. 20 and allegedly shooting 17-year-old Logan Cole twice. Cole survived and returned to classes, but is still recovering from his injuries.

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The motion, if granted by the court, will also bar news media from attending and reporting on the hearing.

The hearing should be closed because it will involve discussion of competency assessment reports, Lieberman said in the motion, because those reports aren’t public records.

“In addition to two psychologists, the parties may call teachers, detention center staff and others who may testify,” the motion says. “The proceedings will be replete with references to the child’s school and medical records, as well as mental examinations. This information is normally considered confidential in juvenile court proceedings and must be protected.”

Lieberman told the Springfield News-Sun that he filed the motion because it’s in the best interest of Serna.

“I filed the motion to protect the youth in this case … We are trying to follow the law,” Lieberman said.

READ: Judge orders competency hearing for West Liberty shooting suspect

Champaign County Prosecutor Kevin Talebi said his office filed a response to the motion Wednesday, stating that it didn’t wish to take a position.

“The court has to weigh the rights of the public and the rights of the defendant,” Talebi said.

He said prosecutors requested that regardless of the court’s decision, that Logan Cole and his family be allowed in the court room if they chose to come. He said he also asked the court to make a rule prohibiting photographs or video of Cole and his family in the court room.

The juvenile court ordered a competency evaluation for Serna after Lieberman requested it in February to determine whether he can help in his own defense. Serna was arrested at the school close to where Cole was found shot, according to police records.

Police reports say Serna allegedly told authorities during an interview that he shot Cole in a bathroom, then shot at two classrooms before turning the gun on himself and asking Cole to pull the trigger. Cole refused, according to the report.

MORE:West Liberty suspect asked victim to shoot him, report says

Serna is being held at a juvenile detention center in Marysville.

He faces numerous charges, including two counts of attempted murder; three counts of felonious assault; six counts of improperly discharging a firearm; and single counts of inducing panic and illegal conveyance of a deadly weapon in a school, according to the county prosecutor’s office.

Prosecutors are seeking to try Serna as an adult.

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