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Former student sentenced for posting online threat against San Diego high school

Former student sentenced for posting online threat against San Diego high school
Torrey Pines High School in San Diego was closed for a day in May after a former student posted a threat on Instagram. Kevin Matlak was sentenced Friday to a treatment facility and probation. (John Gibbins / San Diego Union-Tribune)

A former Torrey Pines High School student whose online threats in May prompted school officials to cancel classes for a day was sentenced Friday in San Diego Superior Court to a residential treatment facility and placed on probation for five years.

Kevin Matlak, 21, pleaded guilty in July to one count of making a criminal threat.

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He posted a photo on his Instagram account showing himself holding an AR-15 assault rifle, an image of a decapitated head, the phrase “I hate all of you” and a veiled threat that “no one” was going to graduate from Torrey Pines High, authorities said.

Another post, using an expletive, said, “Get the … out of San Diego 2K18 before I find u.”

Judge Polly Shamoon sentenced Matlak to up to one year in custody, starting immediately at a residential substance abuse treatment facility instead of county jail.

He is to undergo at least six months of substance abuse and mental health treatment at a rural facility, Genesis Recovery Inc., in the eastern part of the county.

“You can’t leave without the court’s express approval,” Shamoon told Matlak.

The judge also ordered Matlak to stay 1,000 yards away from his former high school, to allow law enforcement access to his electronic devices and to stay away from the three individuals who read his online posts and felt threatened.

Defense attorney Brian Watkins told the judge his client doesn’t know those people.

“This satisfies the public safety that we’re very concerned with and hopefully gets him the help he needs,” Deputy Dist. Atty. Matthew Greco said after the sentencing.

The three former classmates of Matlak, who graduated in 2015, reported seeing his Instagram posts on May 30 and reported them to San Diego police. Police confiscated the rifle Matlak had posed with and the next day arrested him in Point Loma. Greco did not say how or where police obtained the rifle.

As soon as Matlak was released from jail on bail, he had himself admitted into a treatment facility, Watkins said at a previous court hearing. Matlak later was released from the facility and booked into jail.

The high school’s principal decided to cancel classes May 31 as a precaution because of the threats.

Principal Rob Coppo wrote a letter to the court saying what an impact that day had on him and his staff, Greco said.

The letter said that, before getting word of the arrest, administrators “came to the realization that they were going to have to put themselves in harm’s way in order to ensure that the school was closed,” Greco said.

He said Matlak originally was charged with three counts of criminal threats, involving the three reported victims, and could have spent up to four years and four months in prison.

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The plea bargain included dismissal of two of the counts and an agreement that he would not spend more time behind bars unless he violates the terms of his five-year probation.

A second case against Matlak, in which he was accused of stealing and using an acquaintance’s credit card, was dismissed when he pleaded guilty in the school threats case.

Repard writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.

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