PORTLAND, Maine — Twelve Westbrook High School athletes who vandalized South Portland fields and golf carts after winning the state baseball championship in June will avoid jail time, Cumberland County District Attorney Stephanie Anderson announced Tuesday.
Following the June 15 victory, some 17- and 18-year-old members of the Westbrook varsity baseball team celebrated at a South Portland home and then headed to the nearby Wainwright Field Athletic Complex off Highland Avenue.
The teens took golf carts from a storage building, drove them over fields and returned them after causing $6,000 in damage, according to a release. Garbage cans and lacrosse goals were tipped over and beer cans were left throughout the storage building and fields.
There were no witnesses to the crime, but rumors that a Westbrook High School sports team was behind the vandalism prompted a media report. Two weeks later, according to Anderson, lawyer Sarah Churchill contacted Westbrook police to say 12 individuals “wanted to take responsibility for their actions and make amends.”
According to Anderson’s office, attorneys, prosecutors and Westbrook police reached an agreement in which each of the 12 students would pay $500 restitution, perform 40 hours of community service at the South Portland Department of Public Works and write a letter taking responsibility for the crimes and apologizing to the city of South Portland.
In exchange, Anderson would not prosecute and would keep the identities of the individuals confidential. Anderson said Tuesday that all 12 of the youths already had complied with the conditions in the agreement, paid the restitution and completed the community service.
In the letter of apology, released by Anderson’s office Tuesday, the culprits wrote, in part, “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. … 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.”
Anderson added that the agreement “provides a way better brand of justice than a straight criminal prosecution with probably a fine would have … One thing that needs to be remembered is that they came forward. We didn’t know who was involved, we had no evidence.”
Anderson said she could have subpoenaed high school students before a grand jury, “but it was much better for the kids to come forward and not only say, ‘Yes I did this,’ but say, ‘I want to make amends.’”
Only one of the students had a previous criminal history, according to Anderson.
No charges were brought against the parents of the student who hosted the party, who were apparently not home, Anderson said. While an investigation could have determined who drove the carts and whether or not they were drinking at the time, she said, “I didn’t see maliciousness or intention to destroy. It sort of looks like they took those golf carts out and played bumper cars with them. … If this is an isolated night of revelry, it should not cause their futures to be derailed.”
“These individuals came forward, they accepted responsibility, they paid the price and had a penalty for what happened,” Churchill said Tuesday. “The matter is closed and they’re all moving forward, and the city is moving forward.”