Steamboat Springs The four men accused of causing significant damage to a rented Steamboat Springs home during an alleged demolition party last April avoided jail time with a plea agreement Friday in Routt County District Court.
Michael Gatrell of Ohio, Philip Hafner of Oregon and Samuel Walsh of Fort Collins, all 21, and Raymond Jay, 22, of Arizona, pled guilty to one charge each of criminal mischief, a Class 2 misdemeanor, in November 2007.
Police estimated the men caused more than $15,000 worth of damage to a home on Walton Creek Road in April 2007 by breaking windows, doors and appliances, and destroying carpets, walls and fixtures.
Judge Michael O'Hara accepted the terms of the plea agreement in court Friday. Each man received four years of supervised probation, during which they will have to complete 240 hours of community service and pay $6,500 in restitution.
While the probation department recommended jail time for the four men, O'Hara accepted the probation-only plea agreement agreed upon by the defendants, their attorneys, the District Attorney's Office and Jon Wade, owner of the damaged property. Wade appeared personally in court Friday to urge O'Hara not to give the men jail sentences.
"My objective from the start was to see that people owned up to what they've done and learned from it," Wade said. "The last thing I want is these guys doing hard time, because that doesn't serve society or them."
While the defendants admitted to causing some of the damage, as many as 80 people were present at the party, Wade said. While regrettable, it is understandable that things may have simply gotten out of hand, he said.
"These young men are not dangerous," said attorney Larry Combs, representing Jay and Walsh. "They're not malicious."
When Walsh addressed the court, he called the incident "the biggest mistake he's ever made."
The plea agreement allows for probation to be terminated after two years, if all restitution has been paid and community service hours completed.
If the men were convicted on their original charges of felony criminal mischief, they would have faced up to 12 years in prison and $750,000 in fines, in addition to restitution.
O'Hara rejected a request from Hafner's attorney, Adam Mayo, to remove the alcohol prohibition from his client's probation terms, since Hafner only consumed one beer the night of the party.
"It was poor judgment, no doubt, but it wasn't poor judgment fueled by alcohol," Mayo said.