Meet Jordan Wiser, a high school senior you might call an overachiever.
Enrolled in an Ohio vocational-technical school, Wiser was taking Firefighter 2 and EMT courses to bolster his dream of future public service.
“Last year, I completed the law enforcement course,” the 18-year-old told The Huffington Post. “I received several certifications, including the National Terror Defense certification from FEMA, the Terror Recognition certification and (certification as an) Emergency Vehicle Operator.”
Wiser also joined the Army, enrolling the Future Soldiers program, and was scheduled to ship out in August. After his planned military service, he figured he’d embark on a career as a police officer or firefighter.
But Wiser’s big dreams of public service are on hold. In fact, he’s now enduring a nightmare.
It all started Dec. 12 when administrators at Ashtabula County Technical and Career Campus (A-Tech) in Jefferson, Ohio — about 60 miles northeast of Cleveland — questioned Wiser after an alleged tip regarding videos uploaded to Wiser’s YouTube account. Among the clips are reviews of video games and merchandise, home defense tactics, and an interview with a local police officer.
“The principal said he had reason to believe I had weapons in my vehicle and needed to search it,” Wiser told the Huffington Post. “He made me empty out all my pockets, and the vice principal grabbed me and patted me down very forcibly. It was somewhat awkward. Then they took my car keys. I told them what was in my car and said, ‘Don’t be alarmed.'”
Wiser added that he didn’t give school officials permission to search his vehicle, nor was there a warrant to perform the search. But they cited the school handbook as their warrant, he said, adding that they denied his request to call an attorney.
And what did they find inside Wiser’s vehicle? A folding blade pocketknife, a stun gun and two Airsoft guns.
Airsoft is a game akin to paintball in which participants shoot each other with round non-metallic pellets, and Wiser said he had plans for an Airsoft game after school. The stun gun was for self-defense, he said, adding that the pocketknife was part of his EMT kit.
“My stun gun was locked in the glove box,” Wiser told the Huffington Post, “and the knife was in my EMT medical vest. I bought it at K-Mart and have it as part of my first responder kit for cutting seatbelts.”
Wiser was arrested and jailed for illegal conveyance of a weapon onto a school ground, a Class 5 felony.
Harold Specht, the chief assistant prosecutor at the Ashtabula County prosecutor’s office, said the charge is related only to the pocketknife.
“I was in jail for almost 13 days,” Wiser told the Huffington Post. “The first bond hearing I went to was on December 15. The judge ordered me [to be] held on a half million-dollar bond, pending a psychological evaluation. I did that and passed. They found I was not suicidal, homicidal or a threat to anybody. My attorney brought it up in front of a different judge, who let me out on a $50,000 bond and an ankle monitor. I was released from jail on Christmas Eve.”
Given his school’s locale, Wiser doesn’t understand all the hubub over his pocketknife — nor the wide-ranging fallout from its discovery.
“There are kids at my school all the time who get caught with knives and are suspended,” he told the Huffington Post. “My school is very rural, and people carry knives. I can accept the fact that there was a lapse in judgment, and I can accept a punishment, but I have already been expelled from both the tech school and my home school.” Jerome Brockway, the A-Tech superintendent, declined to discuss the case.
And since Wiser’s felony charge, he said the Army discharged him pending a not-guilty verdict or dropped charges without prejudice.
That’s not all. If the felony charge sticks, things could get way worse.
“If I am convicted of a felony, I’m never going to be a police officer. I’m never going to be a fireman. I’m never going to be in the military,” he added. “I won’t even be able to be a janitor. I’m 18 years old, and this is going to ruin my entire life.”
If all of the knocks against Wiser weren’t enough, he added that the conditions of his bond prohibit him from contact with his grandfather, who is dying from cancer.
“The one judge I went in front of told me to remove any firearms from my parents’ house and put them at my grandpa’s house,” Wiser said. “The next judge freaked out about me even knowing what a gun is and put a no-contact order against me and my grandparents. My grandfather is dying right now, and I am not allowed within 500 feet of him.”
There was a petition on change.org that demanded Wiser’s charges be reduced to a misdemeanor, and within 48 hours, it attracted 1,349 signatures. But Wiser said he asked that the petition be closed, which it was.
“The court threatened to hold sanctions against me and my lawyer,” Wiser told the Huffington Post. “I guess the prosecutor was upset because his inbox had been flooded with emails as a result of the petition.”
Specht said he’s aware “there’s a load of people out here that just think we’re the devil because we’re allegedly ruining this young kid’s life,” but he insisted that’s not the case and that the felony charge is justified and there are no plans to reduce the charge.
“There are all these school occurrences where people are shot, people are killed by other students,” Specht said. “We see it every day … so we don’t take these things lightly. … We have to be sure that we don’t have a potential for something like that to happen here.”
Wiser said he’s offended by Specht’s characterization.
“I was enlisted in the Army and went to school to be [a] police officer and fireman,” he said. “Why are they trying to paint me as a potential school shooter? I never had any intentions of hurting a soul.”
Wiser’s attorney, William Bobulsky, did not return calls for comment from the Huffington Post.
Wiser is scheduled to appear in court again on April 1 for a pretrial hearing. A jury trial is tentatively scheduled for June 11.
“Never in my life did I think this would happen,” Wiser said. “I dedicated my life to public service, and now a four-inch pocketknife could ruin everything.”