Jail for YHS vandals

In addition to paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in restitution, the three Youngsville High School graduates who vandalized the school this summer will spend months in the Warren County jail.

During sentence court proceedings Friday, Warren County Court of Common Pleas Judge Gregory Hammond passed down identical sentences on Derek Alan Gifford, 20, of Greensburg, Tylor Ray Keyes, 18, of Grand Valley and Duston A. Miller, 20, of Youngsville.

As part of a plea agreement, the defendants agreed to pay full restitution. Hammond said restitution had been set at $780,609.16.

They were each sentenced to nine months to two years minus one day in Warren County jail with credit for 46 days time served. A period of eight years of supervised probation will follow their jail terms. They will each pay $500 in fines and another $500 in fees, in addition to court costs. Each will undergo drug and alcohol evaluations and complete any treatment recommendations that come out of the evaluations.

Gifford, Keyes, and Miller are eligible for work release and the early re-entry program.

They were ordered to have no contact with any teachers, administrators, and staff at Youngsville High School and to stay off of Warren County School District property with one possible exception. Hammond sentenced each defendant to 500 hours of community service. He allowed the district the option to have any of those hours served on district property. Gifford, whose sentence, once he is out of jail, may be served in his home county, will have to make himself available to work on district property in that event.

He said his sentencing took into account impact letters written by victims of the crimes, including “numerous” teachers and administrators of the school and the district.

When Hammond offered each of the young men a chance to speak, each expressed apologies for their actions.

Gifford’s attorney, Ryan James, who did not represent Gifford at the time of the plea agreement, asked Hammond to postpone sentencing until a restitution hearing could be held. “It’s clear that restitution is not only excessive… it’s speculative.”

“I think the logical thing to do is postpone this… come back and do a restitution hearing,” James said. He said the amount had not been “scrutinized strictly.”

District Attorney Ross McKeirnan objected to that idea, saying he had already told James that “we could have a restitution hearing.”

Hammond denied James’ request and moved forward with sentencing saying he had sufficient documentation of the damages. He explained to James that he made it clear to Gifford at the time of the plea agreement that the defendants would be responsible for full restitution and that they had “benefited greatly from the plea agreement.”

Each defendant faced seven felony charges, two misdemeanors, and two summary offenses at the time of the agreement. The result of the plea was a reduction to two felonies – burglary and criminal mischief – and all other charges not being prosecuted.

At one point, James seemed to play down the magnitude of the offenses. “I get the impression this was a big to-do in this community,” James said.

“It’s a big deal here,” Hammond said. “It’d be a big deal anywhere.”

While Hammond made several comments during Gifford’s hearing and few during the others’, he said his comments applied generally to all of them.

“I don’t think a state sentence is appropriate,” Hammond said. “I don’t think a sentence of 46 days is appropriate, either.”

The jail term is at the “highest end” of the standard range for the offense, he said. That is based on the “unbelievable, incredible amount of damage you caused to the school property.”

“It’s hard for people to understand the motivation,” Hammond said. He said there was no monetary gain, so the only reasonable explanation was “you were set on inflicting maximum damage.”

“You’re harming the entire community,” he said. “A couple weeks into summer, folks in Youngsville find their high school essentially has been destroyed.

The building could not be used to host community events nor even school events through the summer. Teachers could not get into their classrooms to prepare for the coming school year.

“Parents wonder if there are lasting chemical impacts,” Hammond said.

And, while the district was insured against much of the damage, “insurance will never cover the emotional toll,” he said.

According to Hammond, the district’s out-of-pocket costs are about $28,000.

He said the men would carry reminders of their actions throughout their lives. The felony arrest record would be one. The amount of money withheld from their paychecks would be another.

Hammond said the one positive that came out of the situation was “how the Youngsville community and the school district came together to make sure school opened on time.”