The Darien TimesWritten by Susan Shultz Friday, March 11, 2011 12:13 PM
FRIDAY 11:57 AM — Nick Williams, chairman of New Canaan’s Board of Education, just called The Times and said restitution was “the right thing to do.”
“Hopefully, we can all start putting this behind us,” he said.
FRIDAY — Four Darien High School students, former varsity football players involved in the Thanksgiving-week vandalism at New Canaan High School, made restitution to the school district, according to Michael Lagas, the New Canaan Schools finance and operations director.
Each player is paying one fifth, or $1,500, of the total repair bill, estimated at $7,500, Lagas told The Darien Times Friday morning.
“We’ve received four checks over the last two weeks,” he said.
The fifth player is expected to make restitution shortly
The restitution was made to pay for overtime for the district’s staff to clean up the blue spray paint left two nights before the annual Turkey Bowl football game between the rival high schools. The costs include estimates for New Canaan painting scheduled for the spring.
Attorney Mark Sherman, who is representing two of the students, confirmed that restitution was made but declined to comment on the status of the criminal cases.
“It’s a confidential process. The boys have learned some valuable life lessons from this incident and are ready to move on with their lives,” he said.
The students turned themselves in to New Canaan police in December after learning warrants were issued for their arrests, police said. Four of the students are 17 years old and one is 15 years old. Because of their ages, their names were withheld by police.
The 15-year-old juvenile was charged with first-degree criminal mischief, first-degree conspiracy to commit mischief, and loitering in or about school grounds.
The four 17 year olds were charged as youthful offenders for first-degree criminal mischief, conspiracy to commit first-degree criminal mischief and loitering in or about school grounds. One of the teens was also given motor vehicle charges for breaking the passenger restriction and violating curfew restrictions because he drove the other youths during the early morning hours when the vandalism happened, police said.
As a Class D Felony, first-degree criminal mischief has a maximum penalty of five years in jail and/or a fine of $5,000 if the 17-year-old students are convicted.
The five former football players were removed from the team and received a week’s suspension from school for painting graffiti on New Canaan High School property, including a blue letter “D” on the cobblestone entrance, the words “Blue Wave” sprayed on school signs and blue hues painted on a majority of the school’s door handles.
The vandalism happened after midnight Wednesday morning, Nov. 23, less than 36 hours before the rival schools were to face each other at the annual Turkey Bowl football game on Thanksgiving Day.
The New Canaan Board of Education decided to press charges the week after the incident.
Police determined by that Wednesday afternoon that five football players were responsible for the vandalism. Coach Rob Trifone, according to several Darien sources, told the team that the Blue Wave, then undefeated, would forfeit the Turkey Bowl if the responsible players did not admit guilt.
All five Darien football players were suspended before the game, but the rest of the football players from the two schools went on to play the 17th annual Turkey Bowl game. New Canaan beat Darien 42-14.
The decision to press charges was ultimately up to the school district and not the New Canaan Police, according to Nick Williams, New Canaan school board chairman.
Although charges were filed, New Canaan school officials said they were impressed by the support they received from Darien administrators in trying to find those individuals responsible for the vandalism.
“Once the administration of the Darien Public Schools leaned of the incident, they were extremely cooperative in terms of the investigation and, in my opinion, were exemplary colleagues,” New Canaan Schools Superintendent Dr. David Abbey told the New Canaan Advertiser.
“The tone was set and the leadership was provided by their superintendent.” Darien Schools Superintendent Dr. Stephen Falcone, a New Canaan resident, told The Times that the vandalism was “very unfortunate and we’re very disappointed by what occurred.”
“We’re taking the appropriate action,” Falcone said that week.
“I expect more because I know that this behavior does not represent what we at DHS truly stand for,” Darien High School principal Dan Haron said in a school-wide address to students that Wednesday.
Some Darien football players, from the field, also read an apology to New Canaan players and fans before the Turkey Bowl on Thanksgiving morning. The five students responsible did not attend the game.
Calling the actions “thoughtless and immature,” the team said it recognized “the gravity of the situation.” “We are ashamed by the disrespect that they showed,” the statement read.
“As a team and school, we do not condone this behavior, nor are we proud of it.”
Williams said that an act of vandalism like this “mars” the “terrific” rivalry that has existed between the two towns, school districts and football teams for decades.