FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — The younger brother of Florida school shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz is getting out of jail again after violating probation for previously trespassing at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, site of the Feb. 14 massacre that killed 17 people.
A judge on Thursday ordered Zachary Cruz released anew on probation following his arrest for driving without a valid license and getting too close to a school parking lot. Prosecutors dropped the school proximity allegation because Cruz was simply driving past and was not on the school campus, which is one of his probation restrictions.
Zachary Cruz is back on six months’ probation in the prior trespassing case, minus a few days of jail time. Broward County Judge Melinda Brown urged Zachary Cruz to keep his nose clean because “they are watching you very closely.”
“I want you to be successful,” Brown said.
Nikolas Cruz, 19, faces the death penalty if convicted of the Stoneman Douglas shooting, which also wounded 17 other people. His lawyers say he would plead guilty in exchange for a life prison sentence, but prosecutors have rejected that offer.
Zachary Cruz pleaded no contest in March for trespassing at the Parkland school. Deputies say they found Zachary Cruz riding his skateboard on campus March 19 about two hours after school had been let out. Officials say he had been told to stay away from the school.
As part of his probation, Zachary Cruz was ordered to stay at least a mile (1.6 kilometers) from Stoneman Douglas and to not enter any other school unless enrolled. Prosecutor Sarahnell Murphy said at Thursday’s hearing the school proximity violation was being dropped because he never set foot on campus.
“He basically drove by it,” she said.
Broward Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Veda Coleman-Wright said Zachary Cruz’s caretaker reported him to authorities because he was driving without a license and insurance. She said violating any law is a violation of probation. He was arrested Tuesday.
Attorney Mark Lowry, who represents Zachary Cruz, said he was pleased with the outcome. He could have faced up to 48 days in jail for the probation violation of a second-degree misdemeanor.
“This was our goal, to get him out of jail as soon as possible,” Lowry told reporters, adding that Zachary Cruz understands the judge’s warning about being watched.
“They are watching him closely. The nation is watching him closely,” he said. “At this point I’m confident Zachary will stay out of custody.”
By CURT ANDERSON
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