Trio admits damaging Batavia statue, will pay restitution

Updated 10/31/2011 5:07 PM

Three men admitted knocking over Batavia's "Self Made Man" statue last spring and each agreed to pay nearly $6,400 in restitution, fines and police costs.

Batavia brothers Thomas and Theodore Bittner, 44 and 45, and their friend Steve Piron, 45, of Sandwich, initially were charged with felony criminal damage to government property for the April 24 incident in which the 750-pound bronze statue was toppled.

Kane County prosecutors reduced the felony, which carried a sentence from probation to up to five years in prison, to a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge.

Judge James Hallock accepted the guilty pleas Monday, which also carried a year of court supervision for each man.

The fines and restitution for each include: $4,900 for the city of Batavia; $1,167 for police costs and $300 in court fees and fines.

After the hearing, defense attorney Cathy Cavins said the men were merely posing for a picture on the statue and knocking it over was "unintentional."

Cavins said the statue was incorrectly fastened and poorly maintained, causing it to tip over. She also offered photographs of groups of students posing next to the statue and hanging on the arm and hammer of the statue subject.

"There was no real crime committed," Cavins said. "It should not have been able to come down under that weight. It was a ticking time bomb. People have been climbing this thing for years."

Piron said he was happy to put the episode behind him and pleased the statue will be repaired so Batavia residents can enjoy it.

Thomas Bittner said the trio offered on May 1 to pay for the damages and called the incident "unfortunate."

Since the incident, the statue had been held in a warehouse to use as an exhibit had the case actually gone to trial.

Batavia Police Detective Mark Kowalewski said officials hope to ship the statue this week to Colorado for the artist to repair it, a process that could take a couple months. He said authorities traced the men to the statue using surveillance tapes from a nearby bar.

"It looks like they had a little too much to drink and pushed over the statue," Kowalewski said. "It looks like it was a mistake."

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