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Boston police eye alleged Marshfield plot suspect

Will investigate report that youth had service gun

Boston Police plan to contact authorities investigating the alleged Columbine-style attack plot at Marshfield High School to determine if a gun that one suspect allegedly showed to another student was a .40-caliber handgun issued by Boston Police.

A female student told Marshfield Police that Joseph T. Nee, one of the two suspects in the case, pulled what she thought was a black, .40-caliber handgun from his waistband as she was getting off a school bus this past spring and told her "how the school was going to be shot up," John P. McLaughlin, an assistant Plymouth district attorney, said at Nee's arraignment Monday.

Nee is the son of Thomas J. Nee, president of the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association, the city's largest police union. Boston police officers carry .40-caliber Glock handguns, according to a department spokeswoman.

Yesterday, Boston Police Lieutenant Kevin Foley said news reports that Joseph Nee was carrying a .40-caliber handgun "was really the first we'd heard of that particular allegation."

Foley said there has been no formal investigation by the department into whether the handgun was a Boston police firearm, but "given the seriousness of the information, we will naturally follow it up."

The Boston department will contact Marshfield authorities about the handgun allegation, Foley said, and then decide whether to launch its own investigation.

The Marshfield police chief said yesterday that authorities have not yet searched the Nee house in town, and declined to say if authorities plan to do so, now that Joseph Nee has been charged.

When authorities announced the arrest of the first suspect, 16-year-old Tobin Kerns of Marshfield, earlier this month, they said detectives had searched the Kerns family house and found items such as hand-drawn plans of the high school and a shopping list that included guns and ammunition.

But Police Chief William Sullivan said yesterday the "probable cause" that led authorities to search the Kerns house was "not in play" with respect to Joseph Nee at the time the Kerns house was searched.

During a lengthy interview with reporters Monday, Thomas Nee proclaimed his son's innocence and highlighted the fact that police have not conducted a search of the family's home.

Joseph Nee, 18, a senior at Marshfield High, pleaded not guilty in Plymouth District Court Monday to one count of conspiracy to commit mass murder and one count of promoting anarchy. He was ordered held on bail pending a dangerousness hearing today.

Kerns, a junior at Marshfield High, has been identified by his father as the first suspect charged in the plot.

Ben Kerns said his son has pleaded not guilty in Juvenile Court to eight counts of threatening to commit a crime, two counts of promoting anarchy, and one count of attempt to commit a murder.

Tobin Kerns was arrested Sept. 17, about a month before Joseph Nee was arrested Monday.

"Nothing's changed since a month ago other than innuendo and people are taking sides on an issue in a small town," Thomas Nee said Monday of his son. "I personally witnessed police officers promise they wouldn't prosecute him."

However, Marshfield Police Captain Al Knight said Monday that the department does not offer immunity to anyone.

Thomas Nee said on Monday that he was flummoxed by his son's arrest, especially because his son voluntarily went to police to let authorities know about the plot.

"He was the confidential informant who stopped a tragedy," Nee said. "The Marshfield Police Department has known my son's role and participation in this event since early September."

Nee said his son was threatened after going to the police and that the young man is particularly afraid of a group called the Disciples of Satan.

"The only question I asked my son is how did he get involved in this, and he said to me, 'Dad, what did I have to gain to come forward and tell the truth? I have nothing personal to gain, I've been physically threatened and called a rat,' " Nee said.

Ben Kerns has said his son was treated this summer at a psychiatric facility for psychological abuse he suffered when he was younger.

Nee said his son did not warn authorities about the bomb plot during the summer because he thought Tobin Kerns "would get some help" during his treatment.

He also said that he initially did not know that Joseph Nee had reported the attack plot to the police, and if he had known, he would not have allowed him to speak to the police without a lawyer.

Suzanne Smalley can be reached at ssmalley@globe.com.

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