Last month the three men who caused significant damage to the final resting places of dozens of people buried in the Rock Church Cemetery near Livingston were sentenced to jail-time for their crimes.
Daniel Stivarius, 18, rural Fennimore; Briton Middleton, 18, rural Livingston; and Jonathan Plourde, 18, Platteville, each faced with 70 counts of felony damage to a cemetery as well as nine misdemeanor counts of criminal damage to property for mailboxes the three damaged.
The charges stem from an incident which occurred during the early morning hours of Aug. 10, 2011 at the Rock Church Cemetery located on Rock Church Road in the Town of Clifton. Later that morning, a member of the Rock Church Cemetery Association reported the damage to the sheriff’s department.
A vehicle stop initiated by a deputy for an unrelated matter, who happened to spot a bat, a pipe covered in duct tape, and two paving bricks that matched bricks found at the scene of some of the damage later that evening, led to the arrest of two of the individuals.
One week before the men were to stand trial for damaging approximately 100 headstones at the cemetery, all three pled no contest to all 70 charges of damage to a cemetery.
The 70 felonies had each individual looking at a total 251 years in prison and fines that could have added up to $790,000. Last October, Assistant District Attorney Tony Pozorski sent a letter to all three defendants stating that he was offering them a plea agreement on the charges, one where if they pled guilty or no contest and paid all of the restitution up front, that his office would not argue for prison time for them. The three suspects decided in January to plea, but were not specifically taking the plea agreement, according to the court records. None of the men paid the restitution they owed up at the time of the plea, nor when they were sentenced by Judge Craig Day March 5. The restitution included $48,962.96 for the costs of repairing the cemetery, plus $5,239.90 in court fees.
The Grant County District Attorney’s Office recommended that each of the defendants be sentenced to the Wisconsin State Prison System for 3.5 years, 1.5 years being confinement and the other two years for extended supervision. The district attorney’s office also asked for the defendants to serve 10 years on probation.
The reason the District Attorney’s office asked for that amount was because it would be years before the cemetery would a large amount of money from the three men, and may have to wait until the end of their probation to bring in debt collectors to urge the men to pay.
Pozorski pointed out to the judge that while the Department of Corrections’ Probation Office has been effective at collecting restitution in small amounts, they see quite a long wait for paying back large amounts to victims. In an unrelated case involving a theft of substantial money from a local business, the defendant will spend the next 596 years paying off the fines and damages at their current rate of payment. Another defendant in that theft case will have their restitution order paid off in 24 years.
Unless the cemetery association took the men to civil trial, they would wait for the judge to sign an order at the end of the probation stating how much was still owed.
In the end, Judge Day placed each of the defendants on probation for seven years, placing each one of them in jail - Stivarius receiving 30 days, while Middleton and Plourde receiving 19 days. They would also have to pay the $48,962.96 restitution to the victims and the cemetery. The three men are ordered to pay $100 a month for now, with that amount increasing to $200 a month. If they stick to the schedule, the three men will likely pay off the restitution in just over seven years.