2013-09-06 / Front Page

Athletes take responsibility for vandalism, ‘learn lesson’

By Jack Flagler
Staff Writer

SOUTH PORTLAND – Twelve members of the Westbrook High School baseball team have come forward to accept responsibility for vandalizing Wainwright Fields in South Portland following a celebration of their Class A state championship June 15.

Tamara Getchell, business and communications coordinator for the Cumberland County District Attorney’s office, said in a written release no charges will be filed against the group of high school students who admitted to taking golf carts from the storage building at Wainwright Athletic Complex, driving them around the fields and returning them after doing $6,000 worth of damage.

South Portland Parks and Recreation employees found the damaged carts the morning after the incident, along with garbage cans and lacrosse nets that had been tipped over, and empty beer cans littered on the fields.

The group reached an agreement through their respective attorneys with Cumberland County District Attorney Stephanie Anderson and South Portland Police Department to each pay a fine of $500, perform 40 hours of community service for the public works department and sign a joint letter of responsibility and apology. In exchange, the charges against the 12 players were dropped and their names were not revealed to the public.

South Portland Police Detective Sgt. Steve Webster said in an interview Tuesday, Sept. 3 he was pleased with the agreement.

“The fact that they came forward is a credit to their character and their upbringing. In a lot of cases like this, they close their eyes, bury their head in the sand and hope it will go away,” Webster said.

“I like to think we gave these kids an opportunity to go on and make amends for their mistake and live a life that’s rewarding and lawabiding. If any decide to screw up in the future, that’s on them,” he added.

Anderson said in an interview Tuesday that if the players did not come forward, and the police investigation ran its course, the group would likely have faced charges. She commended the 12 players for showing “maturity” and “respect” to accept responsibility.

“They had a night of revelry. Should they have done it? Absolutely not. But it wasn’t something that should derail their future life and future prospects,” Anderson said.

Westbrook defeated Messalonskee 2-0 in the Class A state final in August June 15. Afterward, according to Webster, players went to a house where of of the team member’s parents resided, near Wainwright Fields, to celebrate. The parent, Webster said, was not home and had no knowledge of the players’ actions.

According to the release, the party at the house spilled over into Wainwright Fields at some point during the night.

“They combined alcohol with stupidity and peer pressure, which is never that promising. Most had serious regrets as soon as they woke up the next morning,” Webster said.

The players expressed that regret in their joint letter of apology to the city, provided by Getchell Tuesday, Sept. 3.

“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,” the letter reads.

After a news story about the vandalism aired on WCSH 6 about two weeks after the incident, attorney Sarah Churchill contacted South Portland Police. Webster said Churchill took it upon herself to meet with the parents, many of whom hired attorneys of their own. Those attorneys met with Webster and prosecutors July 31, when the agreement was reached to recoup the city’s losses and teach the group what Webster called a “valuable lesson,” without damaging their futures.

Funds to repair the golf carts, some of which were owned by the city and some owned by a private company, was previously taken from the parks and recreation department’s account. The revenue from the players’ fines will return to that account.

After the agreement was reached in late July, each of the 12 individuals performed their required 40 hours of community service within two weeks, finishing by mid-August. Webster said the nature of the work for the public works department varied, but many of the players spent time weeding, raking and beautifying Wainwright Fields to prepare grounds for the fall sports season.

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