Three young men who vandalized Nikiski Middle-High School were sentenced Thursday at the Kenai Courthouse.
Anthony Ming, 21, Roy Bellamy, 19, and Karl Buchholz, 19, all of Nikiski, received sentences of 30 days "shock" jail time or 240 hours of community work service in lieu of jail time. They also are required to pay an undetermined amount of restitution.
"I've seen school vandalism before but nothing with the depth or breadth of this offense," said Judge Anna Moran. "There are more appropriate ways to deal with anger."
Some of the graffiti was directed at the school principal and students, but why those people were targeted was never addressed in court. Rather, the state alluded to frustration experienced by one or all of the defendants when the crime was committed.
Moran offered the men a suspended imposition of sentence. If the defendants complete their community work service in nine months, pay the restitution within a year, and follow all other conditions of probation for the next two years the court will levy no additional charges.
However, if the men commit crimes within that time frame they could receive a sentence of up to five years.
The defendants will have to work 30 to 40 hours per week to reach their allotted total.
Conditions of probation include submitting their Permanent Fund Dividends toward restitution, maintaining steady employment and no association with one another without the consent of a probation officer, among other stipulations.
Ming requested immediate remand to Wildwood Correctional Center. He is unemployed and lacks transportation, which would make committing to community work service difficult.
On Sept. 14, Alaska State Troopers responded to a call and found the school vandalized. Numerous areas of the main building, three buses and a vehicle owned by a night janitor had been spray painted.
Using surveillance video from the school, Troopers identified three individuals. Following an investigation, Ming, Bellamy and Buchholz admitted to spray painting the school property.
Before the sentencing began, the three defendants sat separately and were accompanied by their parents and attorneys.
They spoke briefly before the court, reading from prepared statements.
"I finally graduated high school, and then I ruin my career," Ming said. "I'm too young to have this happen to me."
Ming then apologized to the school's staff and students as well as the community. Bellamy's and Buchholz's statements shared similar sentiments.
"Please allow me to apologize for my ignorant actions," Bellamy said. "My behavior was extremely inappropriate, immature and lacked the respect you all deserve. It was a disruption and kept others from learning and their jobs for days."
Bellamy also was sentenced to ten days in jail for a DUI obtained during the course of the vandalism trial.
Moran said she heard the sincerity in the defendant's voices, but added Ming was focused on how getting caught had affected him.
She held up pictures of the vandalism and asked the men to put themselves in the shoes of the students.
"How would you feel having to see this everyday?" she said.
Staff and students worked together and spent a school day cleaning up the mess. Students were willing to do what they could to clean the school, Principal Dan Carstens said in a statement at the time of the incident.
Assistant District attorney Sam Scott argued for severe community condemnation, as to deter the men from similar future endeavors.
"These three young men, for whatever reason, vandalized the school," he said. "It wasn't writing the principal's name on the bathroom stall. They spray painted large derogatory terms on virtually every wall of the school and on the night janitor's vehicle."
He said he hoped the potential of harsher sentences would get the defendants' attentions.
The vandalism was planned out. The boys were caught on video purchasing the spray paint, he added.
Attorney Will Walton, who represented Bellamy, disagreed that the act was planned out. The paint was bought for another purpose and only used for vandalism when the men were aggravated, he argued.
About $8,500 in damages has been repaired at the school, said Dave Spence, Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Director of Planning and Operations. There are other damages the district can't address until the school year ends.
Graffiti was removed from the school's fire doors. Spence said he isn't sure if the doors will need to be replaced. The cost of the doors could exceed $10,000.
"The worst thing is the dollars aren't being spent within the classroom," he said.
The Kenai Peninsula Borough also submitted a letter requesting the defendants are not to visit the Nikiski Pool and Recreation Center. Similar graffiti markings were discovered at the pool around the same time the school was vandalized.
Moran removed the request because no charges were filed against the defendants, and the defendant's attorneys argued there was no evidence to prove the men had committed the vandalism.
Jerzy Shedlock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.