Six Fort Ritchie vandals sentenced


Six teenager boys who admitted to vandalizing unoccupied housing units at Fort Ritchie were sentenced Wednesday to probation and community service.

Each of the Smithsburg-area teenagers admitted to one count of malicious destruction of property and was found delinquent by Washington County Circuit Judge Donald Beachley, who was sitting in juvenile court.

Three of the teenagers were 15 years old, two were 16 and one was 17.

The charges stemmed from an incident in January in which several windows at apartments at the former U.S. Army base were smashed. The door of one apartment had been kicked in and there was evidence that one of the juveniles had stayed the night. Blankets and soda cans were found in the unit, police said.


Assistant State's Attorney Steve Kessell said the teenagers were cooperative and admitted their roles in the vandalism. He recommended indefinite supervised probation, community service, letters of apology and general good behavior. He also recommended they pay restitution in amounts ranging from $534 to $1,300.

Beachley agreed to Kessell's recommendations and said the six juveniles also must attend a victim awareness program.

"I apologize for what I did. I know what I did was wrong. I'll do community service or whatever you ask," said one of the juveniles, who turned 17 on Wednesday.

In addition to his sentence, Beachley ordered the 17-year-old to complete an addictions program at that Washington County Health Department.

Each juvenile said he was sorry for vandalizing Fort Ritchie and had no reason for doing it. Beachley told them boredom was no excuse for delinquency.

"I grew up in a town similar to Smithsburg and we played basketball every night," he said.

Some buildings at Fort Ritchie are occupied by a military transition team, by Role Models Academy, and by the International Masonry Institute.

PenMar, created by the Maryland General Assembly to redevelop the land for business use to replace the 2,000 jobs lost when Fort Ritchie closed in September 1998, also leases property on the base.

PenMar Board Chairman Brett Wilson said he sentences were appropriate because only property damage was involved.

"Kids do dumb things. Luckily they got caught and hopefully they'll learn from it," he said.

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