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Five arraigned in Jefferson High vandalism

June 17, 2008|By DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. -- Parents and recent Jefferson High School graduates filled one half of the spectator section of Jefferson County Circuit Court as five of six adult students charged in a March 30 break-in at the school were arraigned Monday morning before Jefferson County Circuit Judge Thomas W. Steptoe Jr.

Defense lawyers said they believe agreements in the cases are being worked out, but attorneys, Assistant Jefferson County Prosecutor Steve Groh and Steptoe proceeded with scheduling hearings and trial dates.

Groh said an agreement could be worked out in the case that involved 15 students and could become more clear once status hearings are held, some of which are scheduled for the middle of next month.

"We're still open to negotiation," Groh said after Monday's arraignments.

The five adult graduates pleaded not guilty Monday to charges of destruction of property, criminal trespassing and conspiracy, Groh said. They are free on $4,000 personal recognizance bonds, he said.

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Charged are Michael Cuevas and Travis Jennings of Charles Town; Justin Hodges of Shepherdstown, W.Va.; Lauren Compton of Summit Point, W.Va.; and Stephen Mobley of Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

A sixth adult graduate - Tessa Turek of Harpers Ferry - could not be arraigned because she was attending a scholarship program in Morgantown, W.Va., Groh and a court official said.

Lawyers were preparing Monday to work on cases against juveniles in the break-in, but juvenile proceedings are closed to the public. Although the charges against the juveniles are the same, the penalties can vary since they are minors, Groh has said.

Parents sat with their children in court Monday as Steptoe conducted the arraignments. Some of those charged were still getting lawyers to represent them, and lawyers were in and out of the room as they worked out details.

The break-in at the school occurred about 11 p.m. March 30. Officials said 600 desks were dragged into hallways, 31 telephones were hidden and inappropriate comments were written in Spanish on a chalkboard.

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

Some parents have been upset because of charges that have been considered for the students and 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 "Pranksters not Gangsters."

Police said they believe a couple of individuals entered the school through a hatch in the roof and opened a door for the rest of the group to come inside, police said.

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

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