FARMINGTON – Two local men were sentenced to a combined 15 months in jail today in Franklin County Superior Court, for their role in the summer 2008 incident where dozens of camps were broken into and several thousand dollars worth of damage inflicted.
Zachary Heath, 19, of West Farmington, pleaded guilty today to 10 counts of burglary, a Class B felony, five counts of theft by unauthorized taking, a misdemeanor, and 25 counts of criminal mischief, which is also a misdemeanor. He received a six month jail sentence.
He also pleaded guilty to operating a vehicle with a suspended license and leaving the scene of an accident, both misdemeanors, for an unrelated incident in Eustis.
Shane Sturgeon, 21, of Livermore, pleaded guilty to 10 different counts of burglary, as well as the same 30 counts of theft and criminal mischief. He received a nine-month-and-a-day prison sentence.
Police believe that seven individuals, three of them juveniles at the time of the incident, were involved in the break-ins, which were conducted over the course of a two-evening span from June 16 until June 18 last year. More than two dozen camps and homes on both the New Vineyard and Strong sides of Porter Lake suffered extensive damage that included windows and doors smashed out with furniture apparently thrown through the windows to cause the damage.
Pieces of furniture left inside the homes and camps were overturned and smashed. Also, items used in the vandalism, such as flashlights, pry bars and axes, were found belonging to the other neighboring camps.
Primarily alcohol was taken from the camps, according to Assistant District Attorney Andrew Robinson. He said that had the matter gone to trial, the testimony of camp owners, officers from the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department and interviews with Heath, Sturgeon and the other defendants would have been presented to show that the incident largely revolved around a search for more alcohol.
“According to Heath,” Robinson said during that man’s sentencing, “everyone was doing damage, everyone was wasted.”
During interviews with police, Robinson said that Heath attempted to paint himself as being present but relatively uninvolved with the burglaries, while Sturgeon gave alibis for himself on the nights in question. Later, a female friend who Sturgeon had claimed he had been with told police that Sturgeon had shown up where she lived apparently intoxicated, with scratched hands and soaking wet pants.
The guilty pleas were part of a deal worked out between the two men and Robinson. In exchange for pleading guilty to the 10 burglary charges, 17 others were dismissed and seven aggravated criminal mischief charges, Class C felonies, were reduced to simple criminal mischief for both Sturgeon and Heath.
Other defendants, many of whom have already worked out similar deals with the district attorney’s office, are expected to plead to different burglary charges. Robinson noted that all 27 burglary counts would be attributed to at least one defendant if everything went as planned.
Heath actually received a three-year prison sentence, with all by the six months suspended. He will face two years of probation after his release, and will be required with his co-defendants to repay $8,595.18 in restitution to the victims of the break-ins. He also must pay a restitution of $2,355 to the owner of the vehicle in the Eustis accident, as well as several hundred dollars in fines.
Sturgeon received a four-year prison sentence as he, unlike Heath, had criminal record consisting of larceny (burglary), theft, and violating the conditions of release. Of that four-year sentence, Sturgeon will serve a nine month sentence, facing three years of probation following his release. Like Heath, he and his fellow defendants will be collectively responsible for the $8,595.18 restitution.
Sturgeon and Heath will be required to not have contact with the six other co-defendants, as well as be unable to possess alcohol. Joyce said Heath may ask to go to New Hampshire following his release to work, an idea that Justice Michaela Murphy thought might be a good idea.
“This is a bad combination of friends,” she said, speaking of the other defendants. “Perhaps New Hampshire is a good idea, where you wouldn’t get a brilliant idea like this.”
She told Sturgeon that he had been extremely lucky to receive the sentence that he did.
“I have to say,” she said, “given the number of residential burglaries here, this is a very, very lenient sentence. You’ve been given quite a break here by the state of Maine.”
Both Sturgeon and Heath have spent nearly five months in jail, and will receive credit for time served.