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School vandals plead guilty and get probation

Nine months to the day after Hudson and New Richmond high schools were vandalized, eight of the 14 Hudson High School graduates accused in the case pleaded guilty and heard their sentences.

After first rejecting a plea agreement presented by special prosecutor Rich White of the Eau Claire district attorney's office, Judge Scott Needham came up with his own sentence following the guilty pleas of Benjamin Luehrs, Samuel Wegleitner, Michael Perucca, Aaron Ludgatis, Travis Melcert, Andrew Olson, Jacob Walczak and Michael Vanness on one count each of misdemeanor criminal damage to property.

Needham's sentence included:

--1 year of probation to begin immediately

--70 hours of community service, preferably at one or all of the schools involved.

--an open letter of apology from each defendant to the communities of Hudson, River Falls and New Richmond to be published in their local newspapers.

--an in person apology from each defendant before the school board of Hudson, River Falls and New Richmond.

--pay court costs and the cost of supervision during probation.

--no contact with the Hudson and River Falls school district.

The sentences for each of the eight were the same with the exception of Luehrs and Wegleitner, who received 80 hours of community service and were ordered to pay a fine of $150.

Peter Maki, Nicholas Filipiak and Nathan Kovatch were in court but their attorneys requested another hearing which Needham granted for later this month and in early April.

Brandon Crockett is scheduled to appear in court on Tuesday. Michael Zuehl and Colin Courtney are scheduled to appear later this month.

Following the successful completion of their probation period, all the defendants can petition the court to have the charged expunged or removed from their record.

All 14 of the defendants in the case have already paid approximately $3,000 each in restitution for damages at New Richmond and Hudson high schools.

More details on the sentencing will appear in this week's New Richmond News.