Students face judge in pig pit incident

June 10, 2005|by DON AINES

PLEASANT HALL, Pa. - A somber-looking group of 34 students and recent graduates from Chambersburg Area Senior High School rose Thursday as Magisterial District Judge Richard Alloway entered the social hall of the Pleasant Hall Volunteer Fire Co.

Each was charged with disorderly conduct in connection with an April incident on state forest land.

"I need a spokesperson who's the ringleader for this organization," Alloway said.

One young man raised his hand.

"What's the story with the dead pig?" Alloway asked.

"The pig was not killed by us," the young man said. The animal was dead when they got it from a contract farm, he said.

On April 28, dozens of students from the high school gathered in Buchanan State Forest for an egg fight that has been a pre-Color Day tradition for decades, by some accounts. In this case, however, the fracas included the dead pig and a 4-foot deep pit of pig excrement that some students, as part of the fun, were dragged through, according to Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Forest Ranger Shawn Lynn.


"Is that fun?" Alloway asked.

Alloway also asked if anyone in the hall who had been cited for summary disorderly conduct felt they were falsely accused. No hands were raised.

"Everybody's cool with this, all right?" he asked again.

"I'm not a very old judge," said Alloway, who admitted that he had taken part in something very similar when he was a senior in 1986 and had paid the consequences. He and some friends were in a pickup truck with about five dozen eggs and were heading for the annual egg fight when police stopped them.

"The police arrested us for the exact same thing you're here for today," Alloway said. In his case, Alloway said he was taken before the late District Justice Larry Meminger and ordered to do community service, picking up trash along Main Street in Fayetteville, Pa.

"There were people on each side of the street clapping and laughing" while he picked up trash, Alloway said later.

Ironically, Alloway and Meminger, who died earlier this year, later became friends and partners in a law firm, Alloway said.

Alloway had a list of 11 students who, two weeks after the incident, went and cleaned up the trash, dead pig and manure pit.

"For those who went there and cleaned up the mess, these charges are dismissed as of today," Alloway said. He told the rest they would have to perform four hours of community service.

If they successfully complete the service, he said the charges will be dismissed and "it will be as if it never happened."

Alloway warned them not to show up late for their assignments or make any trouble for their supervisors.

"If not ... you will be very, very unhappy with the outcome of this case," he said.

No one signed up for community service at the Pleasant Hall Volunteer Fire Co., but the offenders, which included five girls, put their names down to work for the Hamilton Ruritan Club, the South Hamilton Ball Field, the Pond Bank Fishing Lake Park, the Lurgan Lions Club and the Chambersburg YMCA.

A makeshift sign on the social hall doors directed the students to the "Egg Fight Hearing." A few parents came along, including one who led his two sons and nine others back to the site for the cleanup after the incident.

"First of all, the pig stunk really bad," the father said.

"People must accept responsibility for their actions ... I made the offer and they met me up there and they did it," the man said. As for Alloway's decision to immediately drop charges against the 11, "That was entirely a decision of the judge, and it was the right thing to do," he said.

"These guys are on the verge of being adults and it's a life lesson," he said.

"It was disgusting. It was real bad," one of the cleanup crew said.

Alloway said charges had been filed against 43 people and some had been dealt with before Thursday's hearing. Lynn said he has names of another 21 people who have yet to come forward to admit or deny their involvement in the incident.

Lynn said he was impressed that so many of the students had come forward to take responsibility for their role.

"Parents can be proud," Forest Ranger Greg Eitner said.

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