No jail time for high school vandals
By By Suzanne Monk / managing editor
August 10, 2003
It appears that final resolution of the indictments handed down in November after a vandalism spree at three Lauderdale County high schools is at hand.
The damage happened on Oct. 2.
Sheriff's investigators said the vandals began at Meridian High School, then moved on to Southeast Lauderdale and West Lauderdale, where the destruction was the most severe. Computers were destroyed, glass broken, carpets ruined, paint splashed.
Damage was estimated at $15,000.
Determining an exact damage figure seems to have been the sticking point in moving forward with the cases against eight young men indicted for burglary and destroying public property. Court officials said the estimates from Southeast Lauderdale were slow in coming, and hearings set in March and June were rescheduled.
All eight defendants, most 18 years old and students at Northeast Lauderdale High School when they were arrested, were scheduled to appear Monday before Circuit Judge Robert Bailey.
But, late last week all but two pleaded guilty early three on Thursday and three on Friday.
Marcus Sims, Deltrick L. Portis, Terrell V. Grace and Baracus D. McNeil were allowed to plead guilty to the lesser charge of "misdemeanor willful trespass." They received one-month, suspended sentences and were ordered to pay $1,228.53 each in restitution, plus court costs. Immediately, no payment plan.
Kalani Lungeno White and Francisco Chanes pleaded guilty to one count of burglary and received one-year, non-adjudicated sentences.
This means they will not have to serve jail time and their records can be expunged if they successfully complete their probation. Violating probation, however, could mean jail time for either.
Like the defendants who pleaded guilty to misdemeanor willful trespass, White and Chanes were ordered to pay $1,228.53 in restitution, plus court costs.
Odds are, the remaining two defendants will keep their court date on Monday and receive similar sentences. Doing the math, and assuming that the judge does not require higher restitution from any one defendant, that puts the total damage figure at about $9,800.
I imagine the plea agreement will draw criticism because it does not call for some small amount of jail time.
But, I'm glad it's working out this way.
On the cusp of a new academic year, I'd rather see them go to college or a vocational school than go to jail although it seems like requiring some community service and a written apology to the schools they vandalized might have been in order.
Winning, losing: Last week's circuit court action also included two simultaneous trials for strong-arm robbery, one before each judge, involving three defendants. Both verdicts came in on Thursday. Two defendants were acquitted, one convicted.
Dalewood lawsuit: A hearing had been scheduled for Wednesday in a civil lawsuit filed in circuit court by Dan Check against Dalewood Property Owners Association. But, it was canceled because the judge was needed in one of the strong-arm robbery trials.
At issue is whether the roads in the exclusive subdivision are public or private property. Check's lawsuit demands that the association stop maintaining the roads and petition the county to do so instead.
The hearing was to have been about a "motion to compel," which means that Check didn't think the association's officers were producing the information demanded by his suit fast enough.
This matter will now be rolled into another hearing Thursday requested by Dalewood attorney Stewart Parrish who says Check's lawsuit is filed in the wrong venue and should be transferred to Lauderdale County Chancery Court. Parrish cites two reasons: 1) there is no claim for monetary damages; 2) what Check seeks is "injunctive relief," a remedy properly addressed in chancery court.
EMSH lawsuits: Two lawsuits have been filed in the last month against East Mississippi State Hospital.
The first alleges that a patient died because he was attacked by another patient and suffered a head trauma. The wrongful death complaint claims that EMSH workers were negligent because they had "prior notice of the risk of other patients physically abusing" the man who died, but failed to prevent the attack.
The lawsuit does not list a specific amount sought in damages.
In the second, a paranoid schizophrenic patient became disoriented during a field trip to Wal-Mart and ran into traffic. He was struck by a car and fractured his lower right leg in several places. In her complaint, the patient's mother claims that EMSH was negligent because she never signed a permission slip for him to go anywhere.
The lawsuit asks for $500,000 in damages.
Also still active is a third lawsuit filed in December. In it, the mother of a patient claims her son was sexually assaulted and that EMSH workers were negligent because they failed to protect him.
Vanity plate: I was walking from the courthouse to the newspaper the other day when an odd license plate caught my eye. I walked back for a second look and would love to know who drives a car with a plate that reads: "NT GLTY."