Ryan Scott Connell’s court hearing Wednesday won’t see him sentenced for probation violations that spurred him to make threats against two local schools.
Connell’s case will still be called Wednesday morning in Circuit Court Judge Richard “Ric” Howard’s courtroom, but attorneys are going to ask the judge for another appearance, Assistant State Attorney Blake Shore said Tuesday.
Shore said the continuance is to give the Public Defender’s Office’s hired psychologist a chance to evaluate Connell, 34, of Floral City. This will prompt prosecutors to hire their own doctor for a second opinion on Connell's mental state, Shore added.
Connell is facing up to five years for violating his probation conditions on July 31.
He tested positive for illegal drug use in Mental Health Court and subsequently broke a holding-cell window in the courtroom, causing him to be arrested on a misdemeanor charge of criminal mischief.
While Connell was being transported to the Citrus County jail, he made comments in front of several Citrus County Sheriff’s Office deputies that he’d shoot and kill students at Inverness Primary and Citrus High schools, according to sheriff's-office incident reports.
Connell also made separate and similar statements to a jail psychologist and to his father in a pair of recorded jail phone calls.
Shore said his office plans to share Connell’s comments and calls with Howard at sentencing.
Connell remains in custody without a bond.
On Aug. 15, the State Attorney’s Office announced it would not prosecute Connell for his statements because they didn’t meet the statutory criteria needed to purse a charge of “written threats to do harm or kill.”
Superintendent of Schools Sandra "Sam" Himmel wrote a letter to Fifth Judicial Circuit State Attorney Brad King, asking King to prosecute Connell for his words.
"If this is the case that pushes the legislature to add verbal threats to the statute regarding threats in schools, so be it,” Himmel said in a Tuesday news release. “Myself, along with our entire school board, feel strongly that in cases like these where verbal threats are made, there needs to be a criminal consequence.”
In exchange for three years of drug-offender probation, Connell pleaded no contest in October 2017 to a July 2017 charge of battering a corrections officer, according to court records.
He violated those original probation terms in February 2018 when he tested positive for drugs and did not show up for an appointment with the probation office.
As a result, Howard referred Connell to Mental Health Court in March 2018, and County Court Judge Mark Yerman released Connell on his own recognizance in April 2018, court records show.
Shore said Howard could reinstate Connell back to probation, but the chances of that are low due to Connell's history.