Felony charges have been reduced to misdemeanors in the cases of several Wayne County High School students accused of vandalizing the school in a senior prank, Wayne Circuit Court Clerk Patricia Lay said Wednesday.
Wayne Sheriff’s School Resource Deputy Adam Dodson previously obtained 15 arrest warrants for felony first-degree criminal mischief for the students who are 18. The same charges were placed against three juveniles. The charges followed an investigation into reports that Wayne County High School in Monticello was damaged in excess of $1,000 on May 26.
In Kentucky, first-degree criminal mischief means intentionally or wantonly defacing, destroying or damaging any property and causing damage of $1,000 or more. That charge is a Class D felony, punishable by one to five years in prison.
Ten of the 15 students who have turned 18 appeared in Wayne Circuit Court on Monday, said Lay, and one other appeared in court June 6. In all of those cases, Lay said, the charges were reduced to second-degree criminal mischief, a Class A misdemeanor, which is considered the most serious misdemeanor. For a Class A misdemeanor in Kentucky, the sentence can not exceed a year in the county jail.
Other students are scheduled to appear in court June 20.
Wayne County Attorney Thomas Simmons, the prosecutor, said Wednesday that he could not comment on the 18 cases because they were ongoing and because some involved juveniles.
Wayne County High School Principal Justin Alley told the Herald-Leader in early June that school officials didn’t file the charges.
But Alley said he got an estimate from a cleaning company that confirmed the $1,000 in damages.
Alley said at the time that the vandalism was large in scope: Every window within reach was written on.
Graffiti couldn’t be removed from a marble sign or flagpole without further damage, Alley had said.
All the students who have been to court so far pleaded not guilty, Lay said Wednesday. Those students have another hearing July 25 where “they will try to resolve the cases,” Lay said. “If they can’t resolve the cases, they will be set for trial.”
Zola Gearding said her daughter, who was charged in the incident, went to court Monday and her felony charge was reduced to a misdemeanor.
Gearding said her daughter would have to pay a $78 fine and complete three hours of community service.
“I’m OK with the three hours of community service as long as she doesn’t have a felony,” Gearding said. “I’m glad it’s behind us.”