The former Miss Riverton accused of throwing homemade bombs at Utah homes made her first appearance in court Thursday as a crowd of cameras clamored to catch a glimpse of the beauty queen.
Kendra McKenzie Gill, 18, is charged in 3rd District Court with four second-degree felony counts of possession of an explosive device. But her attorney, Wally Bugden, said neither she nor her three 18-year-old co-defendants should have been charged with felonies for what they meant to be a prank on friends.
"We're all hoping the prosecution will ultimately realize that this has been blown totally out of proportion," Bugden told The Salt Lake Tribune. "When you think of a bomb, you think of something people are using to hurt people, to be dangerous. This was intended to be a prank. This was something these young people thought was going to make a bang or a boom, and it would be funny. The absolute truth is they were not trying to hurt anyone."
Gill appeared in court Thursday flanked by Bugden and her three co-defendants Bryce Christopher Stone, Shanna Marie Smith and John Patrick Reagh, who face identical charges.
The hearing was continued until Sept. 26, based on an agreement between defense attorneys and Salt Lake County prosecutors.
Meanwhile, all four defendants are free on $50,000 bonds.
If convicted, the teens face up to 15 years in prison on each count.
"These are all nice kids who've never been in trouble, who did something that in hindsight they shouldn't have done," Bugden said. "Part of the point of hitting these kids with these charges is to send the message that if you're going to pull a prank, you should limit yourself to toilet paper not anything that goes bang."
Gill, who has gained national notoriety over this case, stood before Judge Robin Reese wearing a frilly blue blouse and orange skirt, with her blond hair pinned into a braid that ran across her face.
As she walked out of the courtroom, she was met by a gaggle of television cameras and reporters, but left the courthouse without stopping to comment.
Bugden said the spotlight has been hard for his client, who resigned her title as Miss Riverton after she was charged in the bombing case.
"She's a lovely young girl who's never been in trouble, never dealt with any legal problems, never been in the court system," he said. "This is the girl next door who did something she thought would be funny and ended up not being funny. And the only reason anyone cares is because she's a pageant queen."
According to court documents, the four friends drove around Riverton neighborhoods on the evening of Aug. 2, throwing bombs they had made by mixing aluminum foil and toilet bowl cleaner inside plastic bottles.
According to a probable-cause statement released by the jail, the first report arrived about 10:50 p.m. Friday. When authorities arrived, they found four plastic water bottles with remnants of aluminum foil and a chemical substance that had been detonated in a driveway and roadway near a residence.
Their intended targets were other friends, the documents allege, and the bombs were meant as a prank. Bugden said the alleged victims in this case have written letters to prosecutors claiming there is no ill will between them and the accused.
All four teenagers allegedly confessed to having thrown a bomb at least once in interviews with police. No one was injured.
Gill topped a slate of nine beauty contestants earlier this summer in the Salt Lake Valley suburb. She showed off years of piano training with a Scott Joplin number and took home a $2,000 scholarship.