Four people accused of vandalizing St. Charles Park District offices and a school near Wasco in late 2015 have been accepted into a Kane County program that allows first-time nonviolent felony offenders to have their records wiped clean if they stay out of trouble.
Kane County Judge Marmarie Kostelny warned each defendant -- William J. Donlevy, Kyle J. Wandle, Nicholas P. Zamecnik and Jacob Principato -- that a felony conviction could affect their ability to get a job, attend college and even find an apartment if they blow their second chance under the Pretrial Diversion program.
"(A felony conviction) is something that will follow you. Your life changes for the worst for the longest time possible," Kostelny said Tuesday. "The burden's on you to do what's necessary under this program. I hope you take it seriously, all of you."
Authorities said Wandle, 20, and Donlevy, 19, both of Campton Hills, and Zamecnik, 19, of Elburn, ransacked concession stands at Otter Cove Aquatic Park and trashed offices used by sports groups at James O. Breen Park at Campton Hills and Peck roads in late November 2015.
According to a police affidavit used to secure a search warrant in the case, the three confessed to police about the vandalism. It included spraypainting a swastika on a wall and writing an anti-Semitic epithet underneath it.
Those three and a fourth person, Principato, 19, of South Elgin, also were charged with vandalizing the Wasco Elementary School, 34N782 School St., and Wasco Nursery and Garden Center, 41W781 Route 64, both in Campton Hills, in late November 2015.
Gary Johnson, a defense attorney for Donlevy and Zamecnik, said his clients understood they made a mistake and were committed to fulfilling their obligations under the program.
Johnson noted the four defendants paid more than $25,000 restitution before applying for the Pretrial Diversion program, written apology letters to victimized agencies and posted apologies on social media.
"They cooperated with police. They told them everything they needed to know," Johnson said. "These kids learned a lesson. They're literally being given a second chance. These are good kids. They're not criminals. What they did was criminal. They made a huge mistake and they have to work their way out of it."
In the diversion program, defendants must not be arrested for any offense over 12 or 18 months, pay restitution, write letters of apology and give a statement admitting to the crime that can be used against them for a guilty conviction if they fail to complete the program. Once the program is complete, prosecutors will dismiss the charges.
Donlevy, Wandle and Zamecnik are due back in court in September 2018. Principato is due back in court in March 2018.
The most severe charge each faces is criminal damage to state-supported property, a felony with a punishment range of probation to seven years in prison.