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Hedgesville student fined, ordered to pay restitution for flattening bus tires

July 22, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- A Berkeley County magistrate on Monday told one of the four former high school students charged in the flattening of tires on 85 school buses in April that he should thank God every day that the prank didn't result in a child being injured while waiting for a bus that would never come.

"I wonder if you fully realize the havoc that was caused," Magistrate JoAnn Overington told Joseph D. Schildt.

Schildt, 18, of Falling Waters, W.Va., was fined $500, ordered to complete 300 hours of community service, and pay $873.55 in restitution and $159.53 in court costs after he entered a guilty plea to one misdemeanor count of destruction of property.

Counts of trespassing, tampering with motor vehicles, conspiracy to commit destruction of property and disturbance of schools were dismissed.

The other three males, all Hedgesville (W.Va.) High School students, were juveniles at the time of prank on April 30 and have not been identified. Their punishment was not released.

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Police have said Schildt and another senior, plus two juniors flattened 110 tires on buses parked at the school system's transportation department property at 88 Harlan Springs Road. Tires on two passenger cars were punctured, as well.

Though he denied it, Schildt was implicated by the other three as the one who cut the fence that they climbed over using a piece of carpet, according to police.

Overington said she would not sign off on the plea agreement unless Schildt agreed to complete 200 hours of community service in addition to the 100 hours the Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney's office proposed to resolve the case.

Assistant Prosecutor Richard Stephens said the state's request of 100 hours was factoring in the 100 hours already handed out by the Berkeley County Board of Education, which expelled Schildt and the other three students from school.

"I'm not going to sign off on 200 (total hours) ... I want 400," Overington told Stephens.

"You work it off and remember what you did," she said to Schildt.

Stephens said Schildt was expected to play football on a scholarship at Fairmont (W.Va.) State University this fall and Overington said she was willing to extend the time he needed to complete the service.

"To (only) give you (an additional) 100 hours is an insult ...," Overington said of the initial plea.

The magistrate told Schildt she really hoped his parents didn't pay the fine for him, either. She also suggested he talk to his friends who might be thinking of committing a prank about why they shouldn't.

"You made a stupid choice that cost some people a lot of money," Overington said.

Schildt told Overington that he realized he made a mistake, adding that he was already punished by the school by not being allowed to graduate or attend his senior prom.

"I've learned my lesson," Schildt said.

School officials estimated the indirect and direct costs amounted to more than $500,000, a figure that included salaries for teachers and staff, who are paid regardless of a missed day of classes.

"The court has used this case to deter future acts of destruction of property," Stephens said after the hearing.

"We want to set the tone ... she has set the tone," Stephens said.

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