A former Colby College student on has pleaded guilty to a charge of assault in connection with a bonfire incident that occurred May 22 on the Waterville campus.
Jonathan Sdao, now 25, of Niwot, Colorado, was arrested after he threw a red Solo cup of beer in the direction of two police officers and the beer splashed on the officers during the incident, Kennebec County District Attorney Maeghan Maloney said Friday. She said the plastic cup did not strike the officers.
The incident occurred around 1 a.m. near a dormitory off Washington Street, where a large crowd of students had gathered and many were drinking, according to police. The fire occurred just hours before graduation. Sdao, a senior, did not take part in commencement exercises that day.
On Thursday during a plea hearing at the Capital Judicial Center in Augusta, Sdao entered the guilty plea as part of a deferred disposition arrangement that ends in a conviction on a civil violation, Maloney said. Justice Robert Mullen decided that if Sdao donates $1,000 to Pine Tree Camp and takes part in a forum at Colby in the spring to discuss respect for first responders and fire safety, the assault charge will be dismissed.
Mullen said that typically when a defendant with no criminal record comes forward with a first offense and did not cause physical violence on another person, a second chance is likely to be granted by the court, according to Maloney.
At the Colby forum in the spring, Sdao would apologize to law enforcement and discuss with current Colby students his actions that day and how they have affected his life, Maloney said, noting that the story of his arrest is posted online.
“He’s lost job opportunities as a result and he is working construction but not able to work in his chosen field because of the news media (reports),” she said. “It’s dramatically affected him. He did tell me that he even had someone who told him, ‘I want to hire you, but the CEO is not wanting to touch you because of this.’ So it’s had a dramatic impact on his life, and that’s what we want Colby students to know and understand.”
Maloney said the goal is to change the culture that would allow such situations to occur, and the forum in the spring is part of that effort.
“We’re hoping that this forum will be a time of reconciliation, of going forward with a new mission of working together, and the students will understand the dire consequences this type of behavior can have,” she said.
Sdao’s lawyer, Walt McKee, said the outcome was “a fair resolution to a minor case that took on a life of its own well beyond what it should have.”
“Jonathan has already paid the price many times over with job loss, not being allowed to march at graduation, and numerous negative media articles, and more,” McKee said. “He’s an exceptional young man — unfailingly polite, smart, and responsible. He deserved every break here.”
In a separate incident, which occurred around 4:30 a.m. May 22, authorities returned to campus to deal with a dumpster fire at the same location. The 20-cubic-yard dumpster was loaded with furniture and other items students had discarded at the end of the school year.
Three former Colby students pleaded guilty Dec. 6 to criminal mischief in connection with that fire as part of an agreement with Maloney’s office that would defer the charges for a year, and they would be dismissed if the three men volunteer two weeks at Pine Tree Camp and complete another 50 hours of community service at a location of their choice or donate $500 to a nonprofit organization in Kennebec County.
They also must take part in the forum at Colby in the spring, pay $1,438 in restitution to the Waterville Fire Department and Waste Management, which owned the dumpster, not use or possess alcohol, be subject to random searches and testing and pay a $100 fine for the civil infraction of burning without a permit, with the infraction remaining on their records.
The goal of the agreement, Maloney said at the time, is to ensure that such criminal activity never happens again.
The former students are Ryan W. Neville, 23, of Westwood, Massachusetts; Andrew J. Ferraro, 23, of Reading, Massachusetts; and Jesse Eddy, 22, of Cheshire, Connecticut.
Amy Calder — 861-9247