Game won’t net big penalty
By Blake Belden, Staff Writer
Aug 15, 2013, 13:20
BLAKE BELDEN/HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT Prince George Police Chief Ed Frankenstein and Commonwealth’s Attorney Jay Paul spoke at a press conference held by Paul and at the Prince George Police Department on Monday afternoon.
PRINCE GEORGE — Commonwealth’s Attorney Jay Paul guaranteed a clean record to Manhunt Monday participants who cooperate with Prince George authorities by signing a declaration of their involvement and do community service.
For the approximately 300 individuals who were involved in the game of ‘manhunt’ at Temple Park after dark Aug. 5, five applicable resolutions were explicitly laid out during a press conference held by Paul and Prince George Police Chief Ed Frankenstein at the Prince George Police Department on Monday afternoon.
“It is certainly not the intent of the police department or the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office to scar these individuals with long term legal problems but rather resolve them in a manner that makes them consider the consequences of their actions,” Frankenstein said.
Individuals who are older than 18 years old and provided accurate information to the police have the option of signing an agreement, which includes admission of their trespassing and completing 20 hours of community service within 10 weeks. In return, the commonwealth’s attorney will not further pursue charges. If these individuals do not sign the agreement, then they will be served a summons and have the matter settled in court.
For the individuals who are younger than 18 and provided the police with their identity, the option is the same except only 10 hours of community service will be required within six weeks of signing the agreement.
Individuals who did not provide the correct contact information or who fled the scene (estimated between 120 and 150) have the chance to show up and sign the same agreement, with an additional 10 hours of community service added on to the number corresponding with their age group. If these participants do not come forward, and the police department acquires information about them, then appropriate charges will be pursued against them.
For the 19 participants who were formally charged and written summons on Aug. 5, they will still be required to go to court, however if they complete the applicable hours of community service, the commonwealth’s attorney’s office will “have no problem” setting the charges aside and assisting those individuals in expunging the offense from their record, Paul said.
As for any individuals who damaged property or committed any other criminal actions other than trespassing or contributing to the delinquency of a minor, appropriate charges will be dealt with in court.
After certain participants fled the scene, authorities were alerted to residential property damage, soccer field damage and an instance of breaking and entering into a nearby resident’s shed, Paul said.
At the conference, both Frankenstein and Paul expressed concern for the safety of the younger generation in Prince George County and the notion that all it takes is one individual with a bad intention to make Manhunt Monday have a serious, criminal outcome.
“The safety and security of our kids is paramount. ... If we had a sexual assault or we had an act of violence or somebody got hurt running through the woods, the first thing that you would hear coming from everyone is ‘Why didn’t the police department and the county do something?” Paul said.
Despite the efforts of the authorities to minimize long-lasting impacts and to heighten public safety, several Prince George residents voiced their discontent with the way the situation was handled at Tuesday night’s Board of Supervisors meeting.
Amy Almarode, mother of a ‘manhunt’ participant, said she was “very upset.”
“These kids’ innocence has been shattered because the adults in power failed to show real leadership,” Almarode said.
One man who spoke out said that individuals were told that it would be permissible to go to the park as long as they kept the noise down, and that “there was no damage done to the field” after having gone to the park and taken photos.
“It was an awesome opportunity for community policing and unfortunately the police department leadership failed to seize the moment. ... This is a black eye on this county and it’s very unfortunate and shameful,” he said.