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Second man sentenced in light plant burglary

April 22, 1999|By MARLO BARNHART

A Hagerstown man who admitted burglarizing the former Municipal Electric Light Plant in March 1998 was sentenced Thursday to three years in prison.

Victor L. Winegardner, 28, entered a plea of guilty of one count of fourth-degree burglary, the same plea entered last year by co-defendant Sean E. Lawson.

Lawson, 29, is serving a 20-month sentence. Washington County Circuit Judge John H. McDowell handed Winegardner the maximum sentence.

"We are asking for the maximum because of his record," said Assistant Washington County State's Attorney Arthur Rozes.

That record includes charges of destruction of property, distribution of cocaine, possession of marijuana and other drugs, and failure to appear in court.

Hagerstown City Police officers charged the two men on March 21, 1998, with breaking into the plant at the corner of Mount Aetna Road and Eastern Boulevard.

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David M. Harshman, one of the partners in the facility's holding company, arrived at about 3:30 p.m. that day and saw two men in the area near Antietam Creek, according to court records.

When he returned at about 5:45 p.m., Harshman found that a window to the building had been broken and he heard voices coming from inside, according to court records.

Harshman called police and when an officer arrived, they saw two men on the grounds, according to court documents.

About 1,800 pounds of copper that had been removed from the plant's power circuitry had been stockpiled in the plant, according to court documents.

In exchange for their guilty pleas, charges of theft, malicious destruction of property and trespassing against both men were dropped.

According to a victim impact statement filed in court, the break-ins and thefts that began in January 1998 significantly reduced the chances of putting the facility back to productive use.

Harshman wrote that 30,000 pounds of copper and brass were stolen since January 1998. Harshman estimated the value of the recovered material at $1,100.

The more significant cost was the $1 million in damages, he wrote in his statement.

Defense attorney Mary Riley told McDowell Thursday that Winegardner admitted to being in the building but denied taking anything.

"I know I have been in trouble a lot, but since 1991, I've learned a trade - carpentry," Winegardner said.

McDowell noted Winegardner's record shows he is not only a criminal but an addict.

"There was a failure to appear in December in this case because you wouldn't give a urine specimen," McDowell said.

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