Lehigh Valley

Northampton County judge rejects plea in middle school gun threat case

Former janitor now headed to trial this month

EASTON, Pa. - A Northampton County judge has refused to accept a plea deal in the case of a former middle school janitor who allegedly threatened to bring a gun to school.

William R. Strunk faces a single felony count of terroristic threats after a co-worker at the Easton Area Middle School in Forks Township reported hearing him say that he wanted to go home and come back to work with a gun. The September 2018 incident prompted the evacuation of three schools.

The 61-year-old was in Northampton County Court Friday to plead no-contest to a misdemeanor charge. But Judge Michael Koury, without explanation, rejected the plea arrangement. The assistant district attorney who had been handling the case was not in court.

In a no-contest plea, a defendant does not admit guilt but acknowledges prosecutors have enough evidence to convict the defendant of wrongdoing. It is treated for sentencing purposes the same as a guilty plea.

Strunk is now scheduled for trial on Feb. 25.

After the brief hearing, defense attorney Gary Asteak said he arranged with the prosecutor and the Easton Area School District police officer the no-contest plea. Strunk, a retired steamfitter, has no criminal record and would have be eligible for a probationary sentence, according to Asteak.

At the time of the incident, Strunk had been out on medical leave and thought his doctor had given him permission to return to work. When he showed up for work that day, his supervisor told him that he wasn’t yet allowed to work and needed to go home, Asteak said.

A depressed Strunk allegedly said to himself, “I feel like going home and getting a gun and coming back,” according to Asteak.

The co-worker who heard the comment didn’t believe Strunk was serious, but felt that he needed to report it, Asteak said.

“He said a stupid thing that resulted in the reaction of sending the kids home,” he said.

Asteak said he couldn’t allow his client to plead guilty to a felony charge in this case. Strunk remains free on bail.

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