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15 Jefferson High students face multiple charges in school vandalism

Six are are charged as adults in incident

Six are are charged as adults in incident

May 15, 2008|By DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. -- Fifteen Jefferson High School students have been charged with destruction of property, criminal trespassing and conspiracy in a March 30 break-in at the school in which 600 desks were dragged into hallways, 31 telephones were hidden and inappropriate comments in Spanish were written on a chalkboard, according to court records.

A teacher's grade book also was burned when it was put in a microwave and turned on, police said.

Six of the students were charged as adults. The 18-year-old students were identified in Jefferson County Circuit Court records as Michael Cuevas and Travis Jennings, both of Charles Town; Justin Hodges of Shepherdstown, W.Va.; Lauren Compton of Summit, W.Va.; and Stephen Mobley and Tessa Turek, both of Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

The destruction of property charge and the conspiracy charge carry a possible punishment of up to a year in jail and the criminal trespassing charge carries up to six months in jail, Assistant Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney Steve Groh said Wednesday.

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Although the charges against the remaining juveniles are the same, the penalties can vary since they are minors, Groh said.

The juveniles are not being identified because of their age.

The 15 students previously received 10-day suspensions for the incident, which touched off differences of opinion over how the incident should be handled.

Some parents of the students involved have been upset because of the possible charges that have been considered for the students. The parents said such action could hurt the futures of their children.

About 30 students and parents staged a protest April 6 at the school along Flowing Springs Road and some held signs that read "Education not Prosecution" and "Let Our Seniors Graduate."

School officials previously said that the students also could be expelled from school for the rest of the year, but they decided to take no further action and turned the matter over to law enforcement.

The break-in was investigated by police, and all reports concluded that a crime occurred, Jefferson County Board of Education President Pete Dougherty said in a press conference on April 21 with Jefferson County Sheriff Everett "Ed" Boober.

The charges against the students were handled through "criminal information" documents filed in circuit court.

Circuit Judge Thomas W. Steptoe Jr. signed off on the charges, allowing them to go forward, Groh said.

The decision was made to bring the cases before Steptoe to keep the process consistent, Groh said. He said officials involved in the process didn't like the possibility of each student's case being handled by a different magistrate where punishments might vary.

Groh could not say how the process might be handled by Steptoe.

Two parents who had children involved in the incident declined to comment Wednesday night on the charges.

The break-in at the school occurred March 30 about 11 p.m., an official said.

It appears a couple of individuals entered the school through a hatch in the roof and let the rest of the group inside through a door, Boober said previously.

Some students wore masks and hoods to hide their identities, although police were able to get images of them from security cameras before the devices were covered, officials said.

The break-in at the school north of Charles Town was part of a regular trend of a senior prank, but the incident went too far, school officials have said.

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