Jury to decide fate of man accused of threatening Cortland High School

Jensen Schack (Cortland County Sheriff’s Office)

CORTLAND, N.Y. — A 12-member jury has begun deliberations in the trial of Jensen Schack, who is accused of making terroristic threats toward Cortland High School.

Schack, 19, of Plymouth, was arrested March 2, 2018, and charged with two felony counts of making a terroristic threat. The case went to trial this week, and jury deliberations began Thursday morning.

Over the past several days, the jury has heard testimony from law enforcement officials, the 15-year-old female Cortland High School student who called in the threat, and from Schack himself, who claims his snapchat posts were his way of conveying his dark sense of humor.

The first Snapchat that was sent out March 2, 2018, shows Schack’s father, Allen Schack, firing several rounds off an AR15-style assault rifle in the backyard of his Chenango County home. After taking the video, Jensen Schack added the caption, “Cortland highschool watch out.”

He then sent another snapchat, and this time it was a photo of the gun. He added the caption, “You want to come take my guns? You better bring yours.”

In a third and final post, Schack took a picture of himself and added the caption, “that snap was a joke please don’t send the cops to my house.”

The video and photos were visible to Schack’s roughly 20 Snapchat followers, including 15-year-old Clarissa Santiago, a student at Cortland High School. When Santiago saw the posts, she immediately thought of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting that occurred just weeks earlier. She was worried enough to inform her mother, who would then notify authorities.

Schack was arrested one day later at his father’s Chenango County home. He would be questioned by investigators, maintaining that his Snapchat posts were a joke gone terribly wrong.

In closing arguments delivered Thursday morning, Schack’s defense argued that the defendant never intended to cause any harm and made quick efforts to convey that his posts were not meant to be taken seriously.

“It was reckless, immature, and stupid, but it was his dark sense of humor,” said James R. Daley, a Syracuse-based attorney and a member of Schack’s defense team.

“Don’t make this five minutes of poor judgment ruin this man’s life…Mistakes have the power to make you better than you were before, but they can also ruin your life. You have the chance to make him something better, not something worse,” Daley told jurors.

Cortland County District Attorney Patrick Perfetti has argued that the video caused a reasonable expectation of fear that a school shooting would take place, and that the words he chose to caption the video with “have meaning.”

Jury deliberations will continue Thursday afternoon.