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MacLean William Kayser will get a second chance to make his life right.

Last February, the Darby High School student found himself in handcuffs and dressed in jailhouse orange after he allegedly made threats to “shoot up the school” days after the Feb. 14 shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17.

Kayser, then 18, told investigators that he intended his posts as a joke. Court documents said the honor roll student and member of an all-star football team expressed remorse over the troubles he’d caused his community, saying “I’m sorry for scaring everybody.”

Earlier this month, the Ravalli County Attorney’s office unconditionally dismissed the charges against Kayser and vacated the trial set for December.

After consulting all of those involved, Ravalli County Attorney Bill Fulbright said everyone agreed that decision was in the best interest of the community.

Dismissing the charges would allow Kayser to enlist in the U.S. Marines.

“Occasionally we encounter a situation where a young person is legitimately at a fork in the road. Either we use the criminal justice system to straighten out their conduct, or they have a legitimate shot at success in the military,” Fulbright said Friday.

“After significant evaluation involving a number of people, we believe that the best option for our community, its residents, and this young man will be in the second option,” he said. “We do not take this kind of a step lightly. If he is not successful, we will do what is necessary to protect our community.”

Fulbright said his office is thankful to the U.S. Marine Corps for providing this opportunity to Kayser.

“We’re very hopeful that this will be a life-altering step for this young man and believe that Ravalli County will be best served by Mr. Kayser’s success,” he said.

This isn’t the first time that Fulbright has been down this road.

Eight years ago, Keith Auclair was a senior in high school. He had already made the decision to join the Marines as soon as he graduated and had his ship-out date in hand.

“He was at a party and for whatever mixed-up reason, they decided burglarizing the corner bar would be a great idea,” said his mother, Kari Auclair. “That didn’t turn out to be a great idea.”

The young man was faced with a felony, which would have turned his dreams of becoming a Marine to dust.

Fulbright’s son was a Marine at the time. He had seen what the military could do for a young man when he made the decision to give Auclair’s son another chance.

“He still had to pay restitution, a heavy fine and do community service,” Auclair said. “He had to be held accountable for what had happened, but it didn’t have to end with his life in the ditch.”

When her son graduated from high school, he was wearing a GPS ankle bracelet.

Keith Auclair went on to serve in the Marines for 5½ years. He’s now working as a registered nurse in North Carolina with plans to get his medical degree and become a doctor.

“I always knew that he was a kid who was either going to be the best criminal around or he would go on to conquer the world,” Auclair said. “He’s charming, good looking, incredibly smart, dynamic and leader. Thank goodness he turned that all in the right direction.”

It took someone ready to take a chance on him.

“He had to get a green light to be able to accomplish that,” she said. “It’s not for everyone. There are some kids who are truly troubled and we do need to work with them. But for others, a second chance can be life changing.

“I think we’ve become a pretty punitive society where everyone wants to point their finger instead of hold their hand out and ask, ‘How can I help you?’”

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Associate Editor

Reporter for The Ravalli Republic.