Ely Serna (left) and his attorney Dennis Lieberman talk before a motion hearing in Champaign County Common Pleas Court. JEFF GUERINI/STAFF
Photo: Jeff Guerini
Photo: Jeff Guerini

West Liberty Salem school shooter still seeking less prison time

Attorneys for the convicted West Liberty Salem High School shooter still believe a Champaign County judge errored when he sentenced Ely Serna to a maximum prison sentence.

The attorney’s filed a response in Champaign County Common Pleas Court this month arguing Serna didn’t deserve the 23½-year sentence imposed on him by Champaign County Common Pleas Court Judge Nicholas Selvaggio.

The initial appeal was filed shortly after Selvaggio sentenced Serna to prison for the high profile shooting. Serna assembled a shotgun at school and opened fire on classmates. Logan Cole was shot twice in the attack and other students were shot at also.

Serna was 17 at the time of the shooting and Serna’s appeals attorneys believe the judge should have weighed his age more heavily before sentencing him, according to court documents.

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They are also arguing Selvaggio made a mistake when he sought information about the drug Vyvanse on the internet. Serna was allegedly using Vyvanse shortly before the shooting, according to court testimony.

The attorneys say the judge went outside the record and relied on promotional content from the drugs website to make his ruling. The state argued in its reply that Selvaggio as the right to seek out information on his own.

Serna’s attorneys argue the information obtained by Selvaggio was unreliable.

“The state points to cases in which courts have cited official government sources such as the Centers for Disease Control, judicial dockets and opinions, a publication of the American Medical Association, a medical dictionary and the physician desk reference,” the most recent court document says. “In none of the cases cited by the state did the trial court rely on promotional material in which the manufacturer expressly disclaimed the reliability of the information. The different level of authority is critical because, as Ely’s main brief explained, drug company promotional materials are especially unreliable.”

The attorneys have previously said they expect Ely to serve a prison sentence in connection to the school shooting, but are arguing that the maximum sentence is too long.

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The state is continuing to argue that Serna’s crimes are serious and deserving of the maximum sentence.

“With regard to more serious factors, the trial court found that the victims closest to the shooting incident include 398 middle school and high school-aged children, 168 of whom felt compelled to break and exit through classroom windows to nearby parking lots, ball fields, and muddy farm fields to escape harm’s way,” the response says. “In a separately attached wing of the school, elementary-aged children were hiding in classrooms behind barricaded doors arming themselves with staplers, scissors, and sharpened pencils while shielding their vital organs with heavy books.”

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