The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

September 12, 2013

Judge orders teens to write apology letters for vandalism

ASHTABULA — A judge has ordered three teens, all 18 years of age, convicted of vandalizing a high school field house to make personal apologies to the school district and the community.

Jacob Campbell, Ryan Towner and Xavier Wells, from Ashtabula, appeared before Ashtabula Municipal Judge Albert Camplese for sentencing Aug. 8 after he found them guilty of criminal damaging and criminal trespassing.

“They came in with their heads hanging low,” Camplese said. “They fully recognized the gravity of the situation.”

Altogether there were nine people, including six juveniles, involved in the incident.    

The teens were charged after an investigation by the Ashtabula County Sheriff’s Office revealed they were involved in vandalizing the new field house at Lakeside High School’s football stadium. The break-in occurred May 18; the teens were arrested less than two weeks later, according to police reports.

“The athletic director was informed the next morning that someone entered the field house,” said Marie Ranier, adult probation officer. “Sheriff’s deputies investigated (the crime) and the names came out. Juveniles were also involved.”

The students were reportedly at a party at one of the student’s home on Sanborn Road. They allegedly jumped the fence at the football field at about 1 a.m. and broke into the field house, according to reports. The students threw papers and other articles around the building and attempted to remove a television from a wall mount, damaging the mount, according to sheriff’s reports. A student urinated in the ice machine, the report said.

Several benches were damaged as well as a chalkboard that appeared hit with a stick. Several beer cans were left behind. The students also pried open an outside shed and damaged the plastic around the padlock. Once inside, they reportedly removed football pads and threw them around on the bleachers, the report said.

The juveniles were suspended from school and then school officials did not allow the seniors — Campbell, Towner and Wells — to walk with their classmates at graduation, Ranier said.

The juveniles’ names are being withheld because they are under 18 years of age. Their cases were heard in Juvenile Court and are not open to the public.

When Camplese got the 18-year-olds’ cases and the teens pleaded guilty, he ordered a pre-sentence investigation. He said he wanted input from the school before making a decision.

“(The school) recommended community service, but they did not want them on school property,” he said. “They also wanted restitution.”

A lack of jail space prompted Camplese to come up with his innovative punishment.

“The challenge was to send a strong message and deter this behavior,” he said.

After some thought, Camplese crafted his sentence: Each student had to write a letter of apology to the community, admitting publicly that their behavior was wrong; each had to pay $400 each in restitution to the school district, and each has to perform 100 hours of community service  within nine months.

To make a point, the community service hours were designed to fit the crime. For example, the student who urinated in the ice machine is “doing time” at the city’s sewage treatment plant, he said.

“It’s important to atone to the community,” Camplese said.

Ranier said the three young men are in college now, but when they are home on break, they are working on their community service hours. If they do not complete the community service within nine months, they will do jail time, she said.

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