Two teens arrested for Cuero Christmas in the Park vandalism
By BY SONNY LONG - SLONG@VICAD.COM
Nov. 18, 2009 at 5:18 a.m.
Updated Nov. 19, 2009 at 5:19 a.m.
CHRISTMAS IN THE PARK
Cuero's Christmas in the Park holiday light display opens Monday and runs through New Year's Day from 6-10 p.m. nightly.
CUERO - Two teenagers are in DeWitt County Jail charged with felony criminal mischief for the vandalism of the Christmas in the Park holiday display.
Scott Rogers and Shane Torres, both 17, were arrested Tuesday, Cuero Police Chief Chris Hernandez said during a Wednesday afternoon news conference in city council chambers.
"We received a tip that led to the two people responsible," Hernandez said, adding that both teens confessed. The chief said neither teen mentioned any motive.
"The traumatic event actually turned out to be a misfortunate occurrence caused by two first-time offenders who did not take the time to understand the possible consequences of their action," Hernandez said. "The investigation did not reveal any form of intentional acts against government, historical events or holidays."
About $150,000 in damage was done to several Christmas in the Park Display on Saturday, Nov. 7.
"I feel for the parents," said Kay Lewis, president of the Christmas in the Park committee. "But they had to know what they were doing was wrong and there should be some punishment."
W.L. "Buzz" Edge, also a committee volunteer, said, "We are pleased that the police found them as quickly as they did. Now we can move on."
Peggy Mayer, DeWitt County Justice of the Peace, set bail at $150,000 each for the felony criminal mischief charge.
Jeff Enriquez, Torres' stepfather, agrees the teenagers should be punished but believes the bond amount is too high.
"I am not trying to get him out of anything," Enriquez said. "But the bond is excessive and being used as punishment and that's not right."
"I'm fine with everything except the bond amount," said Enriquez, a former Cuero Police officer and DeWitt County Sheriff's captain.
Mayer set the bond at $150,000 in part because of the effect the crime had on the community, she said.
"Christmas in the Park is near and dear to a lot of people. I knew the citizens of DeWitt County and the surrounding area were very upset and I felt the bond should be set high," Mayer said.
DeWitt County District Attorney Michael Sheppard said a bond reduction hearing could be requested.
"The amount of the bond is up to the discretion of the justice of of the peace," Sheppard said.
Mayer would preside over the hearing.
"The bond amount protest could also be taken to the district judge, but they rarely intervene before an indictment," Sheppard said.
The charge is a second-degree felony. Conviction could mean from two to 20 years in prison, a $10,000 fine, community service and restitution.
Torres is classified as a special needs student and that should be considered, Enriquez said.
"I am not using that as an excuse, but it should be taken into consideration," he said.
Neither teenager was enrolled in the Cuero school district this year, Hernandez said.
Several factors could determine how the prosecution proceeds, Sheppard said.
"In general, anything that ought to be considered - age, criminal record or lack of, mental illness or learning disability, cooperation with authorities - should be considered in trying to determine a fair punishment."
The fact that the vandalism is a crime against property and not a bodily injury crime could also be taken into consideration, Sheppard said.
"He did wrong and he admitted to it," Enriquez said. "He cried all afternoon Tuesday. He is remorseful and knows he will be punished."