By Ed Brock
Felony charges have been dropped against the seven Jonesboro High School graduates accused of vandalizing the school before graduation, one day after the charges were lodged.
Each one will be required to complete Clayton County District Attorney Jewel Scott's Pre-Trial Intervention Program with Alternative Choices Corporation, Inc.
The seven, Patrick Saxby, Joshua Hyaduck, Rocky Lee, Jr., Daniel Cazenave, Micah Dale, Jonathan Rosenburg and William Boso, spent Wednesday night in jail after being charged with felony interference with government property. At a first appearance Thursday afternoon they filed in wearing standard orange jumpsuits, and the mother of one of the teens broke down in tears.
They listened as Magistrate Court Chief Judge Daphne Walker gave each one of them a $3,000 bond. Then they waived their right to a preliminary hearing, a move Saxby's attorney Steve Frey said was intended to hasten the binding over of the cases to Scott's office.
"The district attorney in this county has stated affirmatively that she is not going to prosecute," Frey said. "She's been extremely agreeable. She represents the county well."
The case was bound over Thursday afternoon and Scott immediately dropped the charges, said Keith Martin, attorney for four of the seven.
Martin said the seven will begin their first session of the diversion program at 3 p.m. today.
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 a Wednesday hearing on the issuance of the warrants 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.
Scott said she implemented the Pre-Trial Intervention Program when she took office in January because "not all cases need to be prosecuted."
"This is an ideal situation for an alternative," Scott said.
During their participation in the program the seven will learn responsibility for their actions and how to recognize better choices. It may also include some community service for the school system.
Prior to the Wednesday hearing the seven had submitted a letter of apology and $5,000 in restitution to Clayton County Superintendent of Schools Barbara Pulliam.
Their participation in the program will be accelerated to allow them to finish in time to attend college.
Several of the seven have scholarships and Saxby is an appointee to the Military Academy at West Point, the school that trains the Army's most elite officers. Frey said they were still working with the academy to see if Saxby would be allowed to attend, but U.S. Rep. David Scott has said he will continue to support Saxby's appointment.
After the seven's first appearance Walker admonished their attorneys about reports in the media that compared this case to another. She urged them to make sure their comments were "fair and accurate."
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 hearing.