- Nov 1, 2001
What do you think the punishment should be for these pranksters?
http://www.orlandosentinel.com...8jun17,0,3543641.storyJune 17, 2008
EUSTIS - Five recent graduates of Eustis High School were charged Monday with criminal trespassing for planting a pair of pygmy goats inside the school, a senior prank that could net them a year in jail.
But all five, described by police Chief Fred Cobb as "outstanding young men . . . who, this one time, exercised poor judgment," could be eligible for an intervention program that would spare them not only jail but a criminal record, if they make restitution and abide by other rules.
A sixth prankster -- who also graduated May 30 but is not yet 18 years old -- will be referred to juvenile court, Cobb said.
Prosecutors also might demand that all six perform community service -- perhaps shoveling waste at the county animal shelter where the two goats have been penned since a school custodian found them June 5, just before the end of the school year.
Cobb identified the five 18-year-olds as Austin Bakich, Matthew Ballard, Jett Baumann and twins Steven and Samuel Broadway. All live in Eustis. He did not name the 17-year-old.
Efforts to reach Bakich, Baumann and the Broadways were unsuccessful Monday night.
Police say the pranksters bought both goats -- a mother and her kid -- and sneaked them into the high school in the middle of the night.
Cobb said all six, three of whom recently graduated with honors, could have been charged with second-degree felony burglary because they wore masks to carry out the prank, which forced school officials to postpone a final exam because the goats left a mess in a classroom.
He said police consulted with Assistant State Attorney Bill Gladson and Lake County school officials before deciding to charge the teens with criminal trespassing and a lesser charge of disrupting a school function.
Cobb said authorities sought "to hold [the pranksters] accountable but not destroy them."
"You can't simply ignore it," he said. "What if we had responded and made a dynamic entry [to the school] and confronted them? We could have ended up with a tragic incident."
The pranksters left the goats amid a slick of vegetable oil, carrots and cabbage that cost the district $240 to clean up, Cobb said.
Neither animal was injured, though the mother had the number "1" spray-painted on her side and the baby had the number "3" spray-painted on her side. Cobb did not know the significance -- if any -- of the numbers.
The chief said police had not yet concluded their investigation and could seek additional charges against another person -- not a recent Eustis High graduate -- who apparently was aware of the pranksters' plan and who may have assisted them.
The goats will be auctioned soon unless claimed by the teens, said Marjorie Boyd, director of the county's animal-services division.