Judge To Vandal: Pay Up!

A motion to reconsider sentencing for one of the three men who committed over $750,000 in vandalism damage in June at Youngsville High School was denied by Judge Gregory Hammond during criminal arguments held on Friday morning.

Attorney Ryan James, presenting his motion via telephone, first argued that the $500 fine that his client, Derek Alan Gifford, 20, Greensburg, was assessed at sentencing was improperly imposed because it was not based on Gifford’s ability to pay.

He also challenged that the restitution ordered was, “not strictly scrutinized”, but noted that a restitution hearing is scheduled for Dec. 20 at 9:30 a.m. for Gifford, as well as the other two men convicted in the crime, Tylor Ray Keyes and Duston A. Miller.

Assistant District Attorney Caleb Gnage noted that a standard range fine for Gifford would have been between $2,250 and $2,500.

Judge Gregory Hammond, who sentenced the men and also presided over Friday’s criminal argument, commented on the specific allegations contained in the motion.

Hammond took exception with the notion that the restitution assessed, in excess of $750,000, was speculative and excessive. He explained that the statutes require full restitution in addition to any punishment prescribed, and noted that full restitution is required regardless of a defendant’s ability to pay.

He said he reviewed a report on the damages from Liberty Mutual Insurance Company that provided a, “room by room and item by item listing”, of the damage done in the schools that totaled $757,619.18.

“That’s not speculative,” said Hammond, noting that, minus the $5,000 deductible, the insurance company would not cut a check for that amount if the estimate was indeed speculative.

In addition, Hammond explained that the district submitted a claim for the $5,000 deductible, “which isn’t speculative”, and also submitted a claim for other costs associated with preparing the school to be opened which he found, “not speculative or excessive.”

James’ motion alleged that the sentence was cruel and unusual because it called for incarceration on top of the restitution but Hammond countered by citing the statute again that restitution is required regardless of punishment imposed which, in consideration of the damages he said, was the basis for a sentence in the high end of the standard range.