September 4, 2013

Westbrook baseball players pay restitution for vandalism damage

By David Hench dhench@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

A dozen members of Westbrook High School's state championship baseball team were responsible for thousands of dollars in damage done to golf carts at South Portland's Wainwright Athletic Complex earlier this summer, but have made amends, authorities said Tuesday.

Text of apology letter

Courtesy of the Cumberland County District Attorney's Office


Dear City of South Portland,

We are writing to express our sincere apologies to the City, its staff, and all members of the communities that were affected by the damage that we caused to the Wainwright Athletic Complex. Our actions were stupid and extremely disrespectful. We accept full responsibility for what we did. In the moment, none of us realized how our actions would affect so many people.

We are very fortunate that we have been given the chance to do what we can to make this right by paying restitution and performing community service. All of us have learned a lot from this situation. In the future, we will not act before considering what the consequences of our actions might be.

Again, we are truly sorry for the damage that was done.

The team members have completed community service and paid restitution and will not be charged criminally.

"I don't think these kids were hardened criminals," said Detective Sgt. Steve Webster of the South Portland police. "I think they were stupid. Sometimes you have to use discretion. If they had all been charged criminally, their lives would have been altered in ways we don't even know."

Cumberland County District Attorney Stephanie Anderson announced the resolution in a press release Tuesday that said 12 members of the team had admitted responsibility for the vandalism, which included $6,000 in damage to golf carts. Each of the youths agreed to pay $500 and perform 40 hours of community service by Sept. 1. They were not charged and their names were not released.

They also issued a public, albeit unsigned, apology.

"By taking responsibility and paying the community back, they earned the opportunity not to have this one night of revelry derail their future plans," Anderson said. "Several of these kids were heading to college or the armed services. Hopefully, they will all learn from this and their names will not cross my desk again."

Anderson said Tuesday that all the community service had been completed and restitution paid.

The group was at a party near the Wainwright Athletic Complex off Highland Avenue on June 16, the day after the team beat Messalonskee 2-0 to win the Class A baseball state championship in Augusta. It was Westbrook High's first state title in baseball since at least 1970.

The residence where the party was held belonged to one of the parents of a player, but the parent was not home, Webster said.

After the party, some of them drifted onto the field, took golf carts from a storage shed, drove them over the fields and returned them damaged. The windshields and headlights on the carts had been destroyed. They also left about 30 empty cans of Natural Light beer strewn across the property.

Webster said the police could have launched a full-scale criminal investigation. Instead police asked for the vandals to turn themselves in. If they did, criminal charges might be avoided. Shortly thereafter, Sarah Churchill, an attorney for one of those involved, contacted police.

Anderson, Webster and Churchill reached the agreement with the team, about half of whose members were under 18.

"What they did for sports and where they came from really played no role in the decision process," Webster said. "It was a group of kids who decided to go out and fuel stupidity with alcohol."

Webster oversaw the community service.

"Some people may get the impression that these kids got away with something. I can assure you they did not get away with it," he said. "They were out in the hot sun pulling weeds and raking and beautifying the city they damaged and hopefully they learned a valuable lesson."

In recent years there have been other incidents in the Portland area involving student athletes and alcohol.

In Falmouth, a couple was charged with several counts of allowing a minor to possess or consume alcohol at a party following Falmouth High School's Class B state championships in baseball and lacrosse in 2012. Jurors in the ensuing trial deadlocked and Anderson and the couple reached a settlement in which they paid restitution, donated to the victims compensation fund and performed community service.

A Deering High School assistant coach was charged with providing minors a place to consume alcohol in 2008 after members of the baseball team drank beer at the coach's house after winning the championship. The coach spent eight days in jail and paid a $3,000 fine in addition to thousands in legal bills.

David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

dhench@mainetoday.com

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