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Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


Denton, Bonser found guilty of Berlin vandalism

(June 25, 2015) Jordan Denton and Nicholas Bonser, both 18, pleaded guilty to 22 counts of malicious destruction of property in connection with the Jan. 25 vandalism spree in Berlin during a hearing at Worcester County District Court in Snow Hill last Friday.
Denton and Bonser were ordered to pay $8,843.06 in restitution in total, complete 150 hours of community service each, and write letters of apologies to the town of Berlin.
A third defendant in the case pleaded guilty to all 40 charges levied during a separate hearing in juvenile court, and was also required to pay restitution, serve 150 hours of community service and write a letter to the town.
Assistant State’s Attorney William McDermott spoke to more than a dozen vandalism victims before the hearing in order to confirm that each had submitted correct restitution figures.
McDermott told the victims that, of the three defendants, two were juveniles at the time the crimes were committed. The state’s attorney’s office decided that Bonser, no longer a juvenile, would face charges as an adult.
McDermott said no plea deal was offered to the unnamed juvenile defendant.
During the hearing, Denton pleaded guilty to malicious destruction of property under $1,000, while Bonser pleaded guilty to malicious destruction of property under $1,000.
Additionally, both entered guilty pleas for malicious destruction-scheming valued at more than $1,000.
McDermott said he would provide the court with a list of parties who would receive restitution.
“Had this case proceeded to trial this morning state’s evidence would have shown that on Jan. 25, 2015, the town of Berlin [suffered] acts of vandalism across the entire town,” McDermott said. “It included many vehicles, buildings, trashcans and electric meters.”
McDermott said almost the entire Berlin Police Department responded to multiple locations throughout the town on the night of the incident.
“Investigations and tips from the community quickly narrowed the suspects to Jordan Denton … and Nicholas Bonser … and one juvenile who has already pled involved in this matter,” McDermott said. “Subsequent investigations led [Berlin] Detective [Jason] Burnett to WalMart, located in Berlin, where he was able to obtain video surveillance depicting all three suspects, to include the two defendants before your honor this morning, entering the Walmart prior to the acts of vandalism, all participants, smiling as they entered, picking up several cans of spray paint, all matching the types of spray paint used in the vandalisms, and exiting the store without attempting to pay for them.”
Denton and Bonser, McDermott said, gave oral and written confessions to acts of vandalism including trash cans and electric meters belonging to the town of Berlin, as well as Renaissance Plaza, Evergreen Masonic Lodge and Town Center Antiques in Berlin, and vehicles belonging to several Berlin residents, the Wicomico County State’s Attorney’s Office and Nestle Dryer’s Ice Cream.
Judge Gerald V. Purnell accepted the pleas of both defendants and found both guilty.
“I’m going to sentence them to what the state has asked and what you’ve agreed to,” he said. “It seems to be fair and balanced to both sides.”
Purnell added, “It sounds like graffiti gone awry to me [and] it sounds fair to the court.”
Attorneys for both defendants requested probation before judgement concerning the possibility of additional probationary terms added to the sentences.
“Let’s make sure everything is done, everybody’s been paid, all the community service hours have done, [they] have the apology letters that you asked for, and if they are first offenders you can do it by way of motion – file a motion within 90 days,” Purnell said.
While Denton is a first offender, Bonser pleaded guilty to a shoplifting charge before the same court on May 29.
McDermott again met with several of the victims following the hearing.
Because the defendants pleaded guilty to the scheming charge, he said, most or all of the victims would be covered.
“Even though your name wasn’t called it doesn’t mean that you don’t get restitution,” he said.
McDermott also said it was unlikely that Bonser would be eligible for probation before judgement.
“They have straight convictions right now for 22 counts of MDOP [malicious destruction of property],” he said. “They will not even be considered for probation before judgment until they’ve paid all the restitution. And I will tell you that Mr. Bonser will not get a probation before judgement because he has a prior conviction.”
McDermott added that Denton could be eligible for probation before judgement, due to her age and lack of prior convictions, if all of the conditions are met within 90 days.
The Berlin Police Department originally estimated damages totaling more than $11,000. That number decreased, McDermott said, because some victims “used elbow grease” to remove spray paint on their property. He added that the amount of community service hours he requested was based on the estimated number of hours residents “used to clean their vehicles.”
McDermott added that the 450 total hours of community service and the amount of restitution required within 90 days was virtually impossible, and that three-to-five years of supervised probation would likely be imposed on each defendant in addition to the court’s original ruling
“For all that has to be forthcoming in 90 days, I can tell you that it won’t happen,” he said. “It’s going to take years for them to do that.
“The two of them, at 18 years old, just walked out with 22 convictions,” McDermott continued. “It’s pretty awful when you’re that young to walk out with that many convictions and a $9,000 tag and 450 hours of community service. What they did was awful [and] the price they’re going to pay is pretty close to what happened.”
McDermott said he previously told several of the victims that the likelihood of incarceration was low based on the ages and prior records of the defendants.
“I wasn’t expecting them to go out in handcuffs, but I’ll tell you now that if they violate their probation, i.e., they don’t pay their money or they don’t do their community service, we’re going to be here,” he said. “I will be a dog with a bone … We will be here for violations of probations, and I will be asking for jail time.”
He also praised Berlin law enforcement.
“Honestly, I want you guys to go and thank the Berlin Police Department because they’re the real heroes in this case,” he said. “Their work was exemplary and outstanding, and they were all consummate professionals. You guys are so lucky to have the Berlin Police Department. They were amazing. Go home and thank them, because they did this.”
Worcester County Tourism Director Lisa Challenger, one of the victims, said she was happy with the outcome of the hearing.
“I’m glad they pled guilty and owned up to what they did and I’m glad they’re going to be made to pay restitution,” she said.
Worcester County State’s Attorney Beau Oglesby also provided a statement on Friday.
“The office is very pleased with the outcome because we accomplished all of our goals, including making our victims whole, protecting the community and holding the offenders accountable,” he said. “Through the number of convictions as a result of the case itself, that gave the court the appropriate tools that it needed to make sure that sanctions were imposed, that there was accountability for the offender’s actions, and really through that community service that there’s going to be some return to the town of Berlin.
“Also as those hours are completed, every hour that is completed I hope those offenders are thinking about how foolish their behavior was and how you’re simply not going to walk away from something like that in Worcester County,” Oglesby added.
If the defendants cannot fulfill their sentence in 90 days, Oglesby said, “The court can get creative.”
Oglesby said he was pleased with McDermott, who acted as lead prosecutor, and credited the Berlin Police Department with the final outcome.
“You take the great job that the Berlin Police Department did and you throw in being efficient and being effective in dealing with the victims and their wiliness to correspond with us and keep us informed about their restitution figures and their availability for court, it’s a lot of work by a lot of different people.”