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Court Of Appeals Upholds Restitution Order In School Bomb Scare Case

 

On February 11, 2009, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals upheld a Green Lake Circuit Court order requiring Derick Vanbeek to pay restitution to the Markesan School District for more than $15,000 in salary and benefits paid to teachers and other staff during the evacuation of school buildings following a bomb threat. 

 

Defendant Vanbeek pled guilty to making a bomb threat in violation of Wis. Stat.  947.015, after planting a note stating that a bomb had been left in a locker at Markesan High School on November 27, 2006.   As a result of the threat, the school building was evacuated and four and one-half hours of instructional time were lost.  The Court of Appeals rejected Vanbeek's argument that the restitution was not authorized because the school district was not a victim of his crime.  Adopting the legal analysis provided by the Wisconsin Department of Justice, the Court held:  "[Vanbeek's] argument misses the mark.  Vanbeek conveyed a false threat to destroy school district property, which resulted in an evacuation and a direct loss to the school district."  State v. Vanbeek, Case No. 2008AP1275-CR, 12 (Ct. App., Feb. 11, 2009).

 

Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen lauded the Court of Appeals decision, stating:  "This decision recognizes that taxpayers pay teachers to teach.  When a bomb scare keeps teachers from the classroom, the public has a right to be reimbursed for the lost instructional time.  The Court is sending a message that bomb scares are crimes, not pranks, especially when they are directed at our schools." 

 

The Court of Appeals' opinion, which has been recommended for publication, is available on the court's website:

 

http://www.wicourts.gov/ca/opinion/DisplayDocument.pdf?content=pdf&seqNo=35485

 

Assistant Attorney General Steven P. Means represented the State of Wisconsin in the Court of Appeals.  The Green Lake County District Attorney's Office prosecuted the case at the circuit court level.