High school pranksters all plead guilty
District Attorney Joe Mulholland has reduced criminal charges against 13 Cairo High School seniors whose attempt at a senior prank earlier this school year instead turned into a police investigation and their subsequent arrests on felony charges.
Mulholland dismissed the felony charges of burglary in the second degree and interference with government property that were lodged against each student. Instead, he allowed the 12 males and one female to each plead guilty in Grady County State Court Tuesday to one misdemeanor charge of criminal trespass.
“Technically, what they did constituted a felony under the laws of the state of Georgia. However, as the district attorney often you have to use judgement and discretion when looking at the overall perspective of what’s going to happen in any given case,” said Mulholland after the proceedings. “Here, I didn’t feel, based on the conduct of the defendants, they should be burdened with a felony for the rest of their lives. Given the recommendation and the sentence the court followed these young men and women will have the opportunity to put this behind them or at the same time if they don’t the state will have the opportunity to revoke their probation.”
Judge Richard T. Kent a visiting judge from Colquitt County who presided over Tuesday’s proceedings, sentenced the teens each to 20 hours of community service plus a court fine of $250 plus surcharges. The teens are responsible as a group for paying restitution of $1,240.36 to the Grady County Board of Education for a copy machine that was damaged during the Dec. 20, 2013 event. The students will also serve 12 months of unsupervised probation.
“We’ve all made mistakes in the past, so I think they should be given an opportunity to learn from this mistake rather than be burdened for the rest of their lives, based on my own personal experience,” Mulholland said.
The district attorney says once all of the requirements have been met, the incident will not remain on the students’ permanent record.
On the day of school before Christmas break began, janitors arrived at Cairo High School to find the halls in shambles; desks had been moved out of classrooms, teachers’ nameplates removed, paint had been splattered on floors and a copier broken. A window left ajar during class the previous day had allowed the students to enter the school during the night. Cairo Police had 13 suspects within hours thanks to comments made on social media and tips from conscientious students who were not involved. The students, all aged 17 and 18, were allowed to turn themselves in at the Grady County jail for processing the week of Christmas and released to the custody of their parents. The Grady County School System has handled the school aspect of the case using its a routine tribunal process.