Documents reveal Seton’s decision to drop vandalism charges
BINGHAMTON (WBNG) – Police documents obtained exclusively by 12 News paint a new picture of how the words ‘Class of 2021’ and a picture of male genitals were spray painted on the school gymnasium Seton Catholic Central Secondary School.
According to a police report, a man living near the school called the police on June 8, reporting that he had seen someone spray painting the school. The caller said the person was wearing a black sweatshirt and was walking towards Rec Park.
As police responded, an officer was dispatched to the school while two others scoured the area looking for a potential suspect. The officer who arrived at the school confirmed that the pictures were spray painted on the school.
The documents say police questioned two people at different locations in connection with the incident. One person, later identified as a student, was considered the prime suspect. Another interviewee was a man who was dining in his car in Rec Park.
The police report says the student was arrested by one of the officers on nearby Laurel Avenue wearing a black sweatshirt and backpack. The 18-year-old told police he was leaving a friend’s house and refused to allow police to search his bag.
After discovering that the appellant could not identify the person who had spray painted the school, the police released the student without charging him.
Shortly after, the principal of Seton’s Catholic Central High School, Matthew Martinkovic, responded to the school and told police the school would investigate further.
Police documents show Martinkovic refused to press charges at first on the night of the incident, saying he did not have enough information at the time.
Records show that after a conversation with the president of the Seton Catholic Central School Board the next morning, Martinkovic informed police on June 9 that he had changed his mind and now wanted to press charges.
On June 15, 12 News along with Martinkovic and other Seton officials began receiving hundreds of emails supporting the student. The emails came from the region and as far away as Sweden, claiming the student was distinguished for his race.
The next afternoon, documents show that Martinkovic and Seton’s Catholic superintendent Dr Elizabeth Carter informed Binghamton police that Seton would drop his prosecution on all charges.
Reached by phone Monday afternoon, Dr Carter told 12 News that the decision not to prosecute the charges was made following the conclusion of the school’s own internal investigation.
All students will be allowed to graduate on Friday, the school said previously.
After the school decided not to lay charges, documents show the Binghamton Police Department closed its investigation due to a lack of cooperation from the victim.
As part of the investigation, police collected evidence, including videos from several different surveillance cameras at the school. While many of them capture the events leading up to the graffiti and even show someone leaving school, none of them show the person painting the gymnasium wall.
The comparison of these surveillance videos and body camera images of the police officers involved was used to link a suspect to the school.
A video sent to the police department by the Seton School Resource Officer was also submitted as evidence. Documents say the video shows a phone call between two women and a suspected suspect, who admits to spray painting the class of 2021 but not the male genitals.
12 News did not receive photos of the graffiti, nor of the three types of videos presented as evidence.
In response to a request for comment, Catholic Schools in Broome County sent a statement Monday afternoon; here it is in full:
“Broome County Catholic Schools (CSBC) are responding to media and community concerns about dealing with a vandalism issue. To be clear, the graffiti criminal mischief investigation was not initiated by Seton Catholic Central, it was initiated by a neighbor reporting the vandalism as they observed to the Binghamton Police Department. The BPD investigated the vandalism and at the same time the CSBC was completing an internal investigation. All disciplinary situations require consideration of all circumstances in accordance with our student manual and code of conduct of which all families are aware. These guidelines provide a range of possible actions and penalties for any reported violation and promote what is known as progressive discipline when deciding what penalty is appropriate. Often the circumstances are not fully known until the informal school investigation is completed and the student’s overall academic record is taken into account, including the existence or absence of prior serious disciplinary incidents. . This balancing of factors is done in any disciplinary situation and has been done here to ultimately decide on an appropriate sanction to achieve the best result. With the conclusion of the investigation, we have tried to be as transparent as possible while respecting the privacy of our students and families. “