WATERVILLE — Three former Colby College students pleaded guilty Tuesday to criminal mischief in connection with a fire May 22 on campus, just hours before seniors took part in a commencement exercise, that damaged a dumpster containing furniture and other items.

The guilty pleas were part of an agreement with the Kennebec County District Attorney’s Office that will defer the criminal mischief charges for a year, and they will be dismissed under certain conditions. The Colby graduates during that time must volunteer two weeks at Pine Tree Camp in Rome, complete another 50 hours of community service at a location of their choice or donate $500 to a nonprofit organization in Kennebec County, and participate in a forum with law enforcement officials at Colby in the spring, during which they will discuss why setting fires is dangerous and not something students should do.

The former students also must pay $1,438 in restitution to the Waterville Fire Department and Waste Management, which owned the dumpster; they must not use or possess alcohol; and they will be subject to random searches and testing, according to the agreement. They also must pay a $100 fine for the civil infraction of burning without a permit, and that infraction will remain on their records.

The agreement’s goal is to ensure that such criminal activity never happens at Colby again, according to Kennebec County District Attorney Maeghan Maloney, who attended the court hearing.

“This was a stupid prank that, thankfully, didn’t get out of hand, and it was alcohol-fueled,” Maloney said Tuesday following the Waterville District Court appearances.

Kate Carlisle, Colby’s director of communications, said Tuesday via email that Colby would have no comment on the case.

The former students — Ryan W. Neville, 23, of Westwood, Massachusetts; Andrew J. Ferraro, 23, of Reading, Massachusetts; and Jesse Eddy, 22, of Cheshire, Connecticut — were represented Tuesday by their respective attorneys, Walter McKee, Richard Berne and Brad Grant.

Maloney said her office will proceed with a criminal mischief charge against one more person in the case.

“Now we have evidence to charge because of these cases being resolved today,” she said.

The criminal mischief complaints against Neville, Ferraro and Eddy say that on or about May 22, 2016, in Waterville, the men, having no reasonable ground to believe they had a right to do so, did intentionally, knowingly or recklessly damage or destroy a dumpster owned by Waste Management.

Neville, Ferraro and Eddy are to reappear in court at the Capital Judicial Center in Augusta at 2 p.m. Dec. 7, 2017, according to District Court Judge Andrew Benson.

McKee said afterward that it was a fair resolution and everyone agreed it was the right result.

“These three young men have no criminal record and simply did something stupid the night before their college graduation,” McKee said in an email. “Thankfully no one was harmed. They are each going to perform some community service, stay out of trouble and pay restitution; and in a year, this case will be dismissed.”

One by one, each defendant stood before Benson on Tuesday. Benson said they were charged with criminal mischief and asked if they understood the charge, to which they said they did. Each pleaded guilty.

Maloney said the fire in the dumpster was intended to be a prank and involved four students, three of whom were in the courtroom Tuesday.

“It’s obviously something that could have had some serious repercussions if anyone had been hurt,” she said.

The dumpster fire was reported at 4:30 a.m. May 22 outside a senior dormitory off Washington Street. It started after a firecracker was set off inside the 20-cubic-yard dumpster.

That incident followed a 1 a.m. bonfire in the same area involving more than 200 students, but the two fires were separate and unrelated incidents. At the bonfire, police and fire officials said the crowd got aggressive, some people threw items at them and one student who was struck in the head was taken by ambulance to a local hospital.

Maloney said no students ever were identified in connection with the starting of the bonfire. During that incident, however, then-Colby senior Jonathan Sdao, 24, of Niwot, Colorado, was arrested and charged with two counts of assault and refusing to submit to arrest after he allegedly threw a bottle that hit two police officers. Sdao did not take part in the commencement exercise that day. Maloney said Tuesday that the case against Sdao is pending and he is scheduled to appear Jan. 15 at the Capital Judicial Center for a dispositional conference.

She said, about the dumpster fire incident, that sending Eddy, Ferraro and Neville to jail would represent a cost to the community and she did not think it would give the three a life lesson the way volunteering and participating in a forum at Colby would. Pine Tree Camp always needs volunteers to work with physically disabled people, she said.

Maloney said she will meet with Colby’s dean of students Monday to plan the forum.

“Colby is excited to have this forum on campus. They want to do it in the spring,” she said.

Maloney added that Waterville could benefit from the furniture and other items that Colby students no longer want at the end of each school year, so she hopes those items will be donated to the community instead of destroyed or put in dumpsters.

The college forum also would focus on the dangers of fire, she said, noting the fires that occurred Friday and Sunday that seriously injured several people. Neville, Ferraro and Eddy spoke with the state fire marshal’s office about the dumpster fire case Tuesday, according to Maloney.

“They gave a truthful interview on what happened and why, and they were remorseful and they wished they hadn’t done it,” she said.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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