Judge to rule on youthful offender status in case of Russell County teen accused of building bombs

Russell County Judge Al Johnson is expected to rule sometime next month if the Russell County teen accused earlier this year of building tobacco can pocket bombs will be tried as a youthful offender, according to officials.

Derek Shrout, now 18, was arrested Jan. 4 for allegedly planning to use homemade explosives in an attack on fellow students at Russell County High School in Seale, Ala.

Shrout's attorney, Jeremy Armstrong, filed for youthful offender status for his client in July. In August, according to Buster Landreau, chief deputy district attorney for Russell County, Shrout faced a new indictment that superseded Shrout's initial one earlier this summer. He faces a charge of first-degree attempted assault.

When contacted Friday, Armstrong's secretary said he would not comment on the case.

“Our position is that our client had no intention to harm anybody,” Armstrong said in January.

If Johnson rules in favor of Shrout's youthful offender application, the 18-year-old will either go to trial as a youthful offender or has the option to plead. If his application is denied, he will be arraigned as an adult and the trial will proceed, Landreau said Friday.

Originally from Virginia, Shrout was 17 when he was arrested the first week of the year. A Russell County history teacher reported it to authorities when she found a notebook believed to be his that detailed the bombs he was making, officials said.

Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor said in January the search of Shrout’s home found nearly a couple dozen small tobacco cans and two large cans, all with holes drilled in them and containing pellets.

He said other ingredients to complete the small bombs, such as black powder, butane and fuses, were not found but that the devices were just "a step or two away from being ready to explode."

“It would have been serious,” Taylor said earlier this year.

Taylor said Shrout claimed the writing in the journal to be fictitious, but Shrout’s parents, whom Taylor called “very cooperative,” allowed a search of the house and the bomb materials were located.

Shrout admitted to being a white supremacist, according to authorities.

“He has a lot of pent-up anger toward blacks,” Taylor said.

One classmate interviewed when Shrout was arrested confirmed his racist reputation.

Then-junior Jessica Watkins said he wrote "white power" on his desk, which also was covered in Nazi symbols.

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