Zachary Cruz, the brother of the teenager who killed 17 people last month at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.,, has been released from jail as part of a plea deal in his trespassing case.
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports that Zachary Cruz, 18, pleaded no contest in exchange for a six-month probation term. Conditions of the probation include staying off drugs or alcohol, staying at least a mile away from the Parkland high school he once attended, and staying away from firearms.
“Zachary Cruz is not someone anyone needs to fear,” says his lawyer, Joseph Kimok. “He’s someone who needs our compassion.”
Cruz was arrested on March 19 at the school’s campus. A police report said he had been warned to stay away from the school. His lawyer disputes that.
“That part of it simply wasn’t true,” Kimok says. “That school was always a place where he felt safe and welcome.”
Cruz admitted to deputies he had been to Stoneman Douglas three times since his brother, Nikolas, went on his deadly shooting spree.
Kimok read a statement expressing regret on behalf of his client.
“Zachary Cruz would like to apologize to anyone who felt scared or threatened by his presence at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School,” Kimok said.
Cruz watched his mother die last November and was astonished when his brother went on the shooting spree, the lawyer says.
Deputies have searched the home in Lantana, Fla., where Zachary Cruz has been living since his mother’s death, searching for weapons that he might use to possibly hurt himself or others. But they found nothing, according to court documents.
“He didn’t turn to drugs or alcohol or violence,” Kimok says. “He turned to his skateboard. He turned to Stoneman Douglas. … He just wanted to make sense of this.”
Prosecutor Sarahnell Murphy says the plea agreement also calls for mental health counseling, GPS monitor tracking and a ban on setting foot on any school campus unless he is enrolled there.
Broward County Judge Melinda Brown had scheduled a hearing to listen to arguments on the size of the $500,000 bond originally imposed on Cruz.
The debate over the bond amount was rendered moot by the plea deal, but Kimok still called it “unlawful and unconstitutional.”
“A judge set a half-million-dollar bond in a trespassing case,” the lawyer says. “When a judge sets a bond that is so high that you have to plead guilty to get out of jail....They can do it to anyone. And that should scare everyone.”