Videotaping cemetery vandal sentenced

Posted: Wednesday, May 16, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- The first of three men convicted of vandalizing the Birch Hill Cemetery last year learned this week the price he would pay for the crime.

Jerome Phillips, 21, was sentenced to serve a total of 41/2 years in prison for his part in the Sept. 27 crime, which he captured on videotape. The tape was replayed in Phillips' sentencing hearing Tuesday afternoon.

Superior Court Judge Ralph Beistline expressed shock and horror at the desecration displayed on the video.

''The conduct was revolting, detestable, and every other word you can think of,'' he said. ''The attitude displayed in the videotape was a source of joy and pleasure for you ... you were evil. You were just plain evil.''

Phillips and the other men -- 19-year-olds Garry Lawrence and Ira Poe -- were also charged in a string of home burglaries that took place between Sept. 20 and Sept. 25 of last year. It was during the investigation into the thefts that police discovered the videotape, inside a stolen videocamera.

Each of the men was charged with one count of second-degree criminal mischief while all faced a number of counts of first-degree burglary and second-degree theft as well.

Each man reached a plea agreement whereby each agreed to plead no contest to one count of second-degree criminal mischief and two counts of second-degree theft. Lawrence is scheduled and Poe are to be sentenced late later this week.

Prosecutor Jay Hodges began the hearing by showing the video of the Birch Hill vandalism, which was sandwiched between video footage shot the same day by Poe.

The tape shows the damage done, including urinating on a grave and spitting on another, throwing and breaking statuary, hacking bouquets and a wooden cross with a machete, flipping crosses over and attempting to uproot gravestones.

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