By Ed Brock
With hands and faces clinched Wednesday, the seven suspects in the Jonesboro High School vandalism case waited as one by one they were taken into custody on felony charges.
The seven recent graduates and their parents attended a lengthy hearing Wednesday morning after which Clayton County Magistrate Court Chief Judge Daphne Walker decided to issue warrants for the seven's arrest on charges of interference with government property.
Then she denied bond for all seven, meaning they would spend Wednesday night in jail. Bond is expected to be set for the seven today at their 1:30 p.m. first appearance hearing.
In announcing her decision to charge Patrick Saxby, Joshua Hyaduck, Rocky Lee, Daniel Cazenave, Micah Dale, Jonathan Rosenburg and William Boso, Walker said the case was perhaps the most difficult she had heard so far. She took into consideration the fact that the seven all "have bright futures."
"Unfortunately, I'm obligated under the law to follow the letter of the law," Walker said. "Based upon that I am going to have to issue warrants in this case."
The charges stem from a May 23 incident in which some $7,000 in damage was done to the school. Graffiti was spray painted around the school, damage was done to the school's baseball infield, tables were overturned and broken and a dead possum was left in the cafeteria. All seven suspects have confessed to being involved.
Clayton County Police Detective David Lovett said in his testimony at the hearing that he interviewed the seven after learning their names first from other students and then from some of the suspects. Lee and Cazenave told him they went to the school together after somebody called them and they mostly spray painted the back parking lot.
Saxby, Hyaduck, Dale, Rosenburg and Boso arrived together. Boso said he was mostly involved in digging holes in the baseball field. Saxby said he did some damage to the field and then spray painted on the sidewalk, and Dale said he only did some damage to the field.
Rosenberg and Hyaduck told him they went into the cafeteria, overturning tables and leaving the dead possum behind a vending machine, Lovett said.
The most expensive damage was done in the spray painting of several modular classroom units. They had to be repainted.
Four attorneys represented the seven suspects, and each one questioned Lovett on whether their clients had been cooperative with his investigation. Lovett said all of the suspects had cooperated fully.
Prior to the hearing the seven submitted a written apology and $5,000 in restitution to Clayton County Superintendent of Schools Barbara Pulliam. They say the "bad choices" they made on the night of May 23 "went far beyond our original intent as a senior prank."
"What began as a senior prank has jeopardized our immediate and possibly our entire futures," the seven wrote in the letter. "This is a consequence which we know is of our making."
Pulliam attended the hearing, as did Derrick Williams, principal of Jonesboro High School. They didn't testify during the hearing.
The attorneys, Keith Martin, Steve Frey, Robert Romeo and Steven Lister, also asked that because it was unclear who had caused what dollar amount of damage that their clients should be charged with misdemeanor criminal trespassing. Clayton County Senior Assistant District Attorney Todd Naugle said there was no denial of the fact that the seven damaged and defaced government property so the amount of damage is irrelevant.
After Walker issued her decision the attorney asked for their clients to be released on their own recognizance, saying they had deep roots in the community, were not flight risks and would not commit another crime. In asking for Lee's release on the "on recognizance bond", Martin stood by Principal Williams and quoted what Williams had told the seven moments before the decision.
"Mr. Williams looked at them and said the next time I see you it's going to be like it always was," Martin said.
Naugle also did not object to the seven being released on their own recognizance.
"From the perspective of the district attorney's office we not only don't object to an OR bond we think that's appropriate in this case," Naugle said.
But Walker denied the bond, saying it was court policy that bond be issued at a first appearance.
Frey said he hadn't heard if his client, Saxby, will still be able to go to the Military Academy at West Point to which he had been appointed. He said he thinks Saxby will hold up well enough during his night in Clayton County jail.
"Due to the fact that my client will remain in jail I believe that the district attorney's office has taken steps to ensure the safety of these kids," Frey said. "I have nothing but high praise for the district attorney's office."
After 10 youths were arrested in connection with another senior prank at Mt. Zion High school officials told prosecutors that they didn't think the 10 should be prosecuted because there was no damage done to the school. Clayton County District Attorney Jewel Scott, Solicitor General Leslie Miller Terry and Walker then dropped the charges against them.
Those 10 suspects also spent time in jail after their arrest.
NAACP President Dexter Matthews earlier questioned arresting the Mt. Zion students, who were all black, when there had been no arrests of the Jonesboro students at that time. He attended Wednesday's.