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Long IslandCrime

Community service deal for 2 out-of-towners in church vandalism

Two out-of-towners caught on video vandalizing a historic Greenport church agreed Friday to a community service deal that had the priest's blessing.

Mitchell Maver, 22, of Burlington, Vermont, and Wesley Brown, 21, of Briarcliff Manor in Westchester County, will each work 35 hours of community service at Saints Anargyroi, Taxiarchis and Gerasimos Greek Orthodox Church as atonement for shattering a stained-glass window, slashing at huge planters of basil and kicking down a sign on Aug. 19. They surrendered Aug. 30 after Southold Town police released video footage, and each was charged with fourth-degree criminal mischief, a misdemeanor.

"I was impressed with the defendants," said Father Jerry Ballas, who was in the Southold courtroom when the deal was reached. "They really felt so bad. All the defendants have been calling me at least once a week: 'Father I'm sorry.' They're good kids. Good families."

If the two also pay about $3,500 in restitution for the sign and complete their service by Nov. 16, the charges would be dismissed if they keep out of trouble for six months, said their attorney, Daniel Rodgers of Southampton.

Rodgers thanked Ballas and the Suffolk district attorney's office for being "compassionate" to the young men, one a recent college graduate and the other a college senior. He said the two had been in town working at a festival, got drunk and had no memory of what they did.

"They recognize if they screw this up . . . they'll have a permanent criminal record forever," the attorney said. "They're getting a great bargain here, and I think they're respectful of the fact that they're receiving a very generous disposition considering what they did."

Ballas said he didn't want to press charges against them but was advised by prosecutors to do so. He had from the start championed community service, saying he knows young adults can do "dumb" things. As the father of three children, he said, he did not want the two men saddled with criminal records for the rest of their lives.

He hasn't given too much thought to jobs for the penitents — perhaps cleaning the basement and steam cleaning fabric chairs.

"Mostly, I want to talk to them," Ballas said. "I'm a priest. I'm not a person of revenge. Our God isn't a God of revenge. It's a loving God.

"Everything is beautiful. I feel good about the kids not having any record if they don't get in trouble in the next six months."

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