Break-ins net high school athlete probation, community service

An Edgartown District Court judge last week sentenced Martha’s Vineyard High School senior Deshawn James, 18, of Oak Bluffs to two years of probation and 30 hours of community service, after he pled guilty to breaking into a house and stealing cash while a family slept upstairs.

On Thursday, Associate Justice Robert A. Welsh accepted a plea agreement by which Mr. James, originally charged with felony breaking and entering, pled guilty to the lesser charge of misdemeanor breaking and entering. He was ordered to make restitution in the amount of $500. According to police, he has already returned most of the estimated $2,000 stolen.

Mr. James also admitted in court that the prosecutor had sufficient facts to prove a charge of larceny, if the case went to trial. Judge Welsh continued that case without a finding.

Eight teachers and advisors wrote to the court in support of Mr. James.

Joe Graves, chairman of the school’s alternative education program, wrote that Mr. James has the full and unconditional support of all teachers and advisors in that program.

“I know he has made mistakes outside of school and am confident that if given the opportunity to make it right he will do so and will learn from this and not become someone the court sees as a habitual offender,” Mr. Graves wrote in a letter to the court.

“Deshawn is an intelligent, considerate, talented, and dedicated young man who made a terrible mistake, but has shown sincere remorse and impressive progress,” wrote Allison Ritts, social worker and guidance counselor. “I truly believe that everyone would be better served if he would be allowed to continue the academic, athletic, and most importantly personal journey that he has embarked upon.”

According to a police report, Mr. James broke into the home of an Oak Bluffs family three times. When the family installed a security camera, Mr. James was recorded entering the home a fourth time.

Despite his arraignment on December 17 on two counts of breaking and entering a building during daytime to commit a felony, three counts of larceny from a building, and one count of breaking and entering a building during nighttime to commit a felony, school officials allowed Mr. James to continue to play on the varsity basketball team.

At the time, Vineyard superintendent of schools James Weiss said that Mr. James had only been arraigned and was still presumed innocent.

“Should he be found guilty, we would review the situation and take appropriate action,” Mr. Weiss said following news of the arraignment.

Principal Steve Nixon was unavailable for comment this week due to February school vacation.