0

West Point appointee regrets actions

By Ed Brock

Hands clenched in front of him, Patrick Saxby seems even younger than his 18 years as he expresses his regret for his role in the vandalism of Jonesboro High School.

"This is very unlike us," Saxby said, referring to himself and the six other youths who have been implicated in the senior prank that officials say caused $7,000 of damage to the school.

A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday in Clayton County Magistrate Court after which Chief Judge Daphne Walker is expected to decide whether or not to issue criminal warrants for Saxby and the other suspects.

All of them are "good kids," honor students with college and brilliant futures ahead of them. Saxby, the captain of the Jonesboro High School soccer team with a 3.8 grade point average before his graduation, has been accepted at the United State's Military Academy at West Point.

Now that appointment to the Army's elite school from which it draws its best officers hangs in the balance as Saxby awaits a judge's decision whether he will be charged with a crime in connection with the May 24 incident at the school.

"Everybody's saying I'm going to lose my scholarship," Saxby said, adding that of course he would be very disappointed if that happened. "It was my decision to do things that night. I'd have to live up to my actions."

What happened that night was that somebody broke into the school, spray-painted graffiti on the wall, damaged school property and left dead animals in the cafeteria.

For his part, Saxby admits that he scraped some dirt off the pitcher's mound on the school's baseball diamond "knowing that it was easily replaceable." He also spray painted "Senior Class of '05" on a sidewalk near the school "knowing that that's been done all four years of my high school years."

"Nobody's gotten in trouble for it, so I figured it was OK," Saxby said.

At one point he became separated from the others and didn't know about the rest of the damage done until he read about it the next day, Saxby said.

"My name came up and so many people were calling me, 'This is what I heard, this is what I heard,'" Saxby said.

Some of the graffiti included terms like "Black Power" and "Hoes," the latter being a black slang term meaning prostitute. All of the suspects in the vandalism case are white.

Saxby said he doesn't know who painted those terms or why.

On Thursday morning West Point had contacted the family asking them to submit in writing Saxby's side of the story, said Saxby's parents Ski and Barbara Saxby.

They don't know what will happen next. The commander of the southeast region for the academy did not return a phone call seeking comment on the case.

Ski Saxby said he attended The Citadel, a South Carolina military, but his father and his grandfather attended West Point.

"It's in our blood, the military," Ski Saxby said.

Patrick Saxby said he went to the academy last summer for a workshop in which he underwent some of the training offered to cadets.

"I just fell in love with the place when I got there," Saxby said.

Since the incident Saxby has been interviewed by Clayton County police. His parents and he have also been working with officials at the school about restitution. Saxby said he's willing to do anything.

"I'll paint every inch of the building, replant every inch of the baseball field," Saxby said.

Saxby's attorney Steve Frey said he thinks his client has the "support and best wishes" of school officials. He is hoping to avoid serious criminal charges.

"We are taking steps to make the school whole and aggressively pursuing monies necessary to correct or fix any damage," Frey said. "Aside from the monetary restitution my client is prepared to make restitution above and beyond the monetary."

Saxby just wants the opportunity to make amends while still being allowed to pursue his dream, Frey added.

Saxby does have at least one powerful friend on his side. U.S. Rep. David Scott, D-Georgia, said he is standing behind his recommendation for Saxby as a candidate for West Point. Scott said Saxby's overall record indicates that he is worthy.

"I look at this, and I think the community should look at this, as youthful indiscretion," Scott said. "I look at this as just being a blip on the screen. Outside of this little incident we're very proud of this young man."

Saxby said he's very glad to have Scott's continued support.

"To have the support of someone of his stature backing me," Saxby said.

In another case of school vandalism, officials decided not to prosecute 10 persons for putting caulking in the locks at night. School officials said no permanent damage was done to the school.