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Presby Memorial Gardens

Just received this from the folks at Region 19 and I thought the iris world
would be interested in  knowing that the culprits have been brought to
Dave Silverberg
The Star Ledger Pair admit ravaging prized iris gardens
Alcohol-fueled attack costs teens $17,000
Friday, August 25, 2006
Newark Star-Ledger Staff
William "Will" Poris carried the secret around for a year. So did Gideon

The secret was of a night of heavy drinking, followed by a golf- club bashing
assault on prized historic rhizomes at Montclair's nationally known Presby
Memorial Iris Gardens.

And yesterday morning, the secret was laid out before the crowded courtroom of
Judge Ernest Booker as the two 19-year-olds from Montclair entered guilty
pleas to ravaging the gardens on Aug. 3, 2005, in a crime that ignited public
outrage and attracted worldwide attention.

For Poris, the admission came with an expression of regret to his parents,
seated on the courtroom's wooden benches a few feet away.

"I'd also like to apologize to my family," Poris said. "I've caused so much
pain, stress."

The two defendants, originally charged with criminal mischief, pleaded guilty
to a lesser disorderly persons charge, one that will not create a criminal
record. The charge against a third defendant, 19-year-old Daniel Goldmeier,
was dismissed.

The two men agreed to make $17,000 in restitution for damaging 156 plants,
some dating back centuries, and separating many from the name tags crucial to
identifying their heritage.

After accepting the guilty pleas, Booker imposed 30-day suspended jail terms,
levied $500 fines and $35 court costs for each and ordered them to write
letters to newspapers publicly apologizing for their actions.

But not before quizzing Poris and Korn-Wyatt about that fateful night more
than a year ago.

"We drank a lot that night," Poris told Booker. "We had golf clubs in the back
of my car," Korn-Wyatt said. "I was driving. We went to the iris gardens and
started hitting the flowers."

"Why the iris gardens?" Booker interjected.

"I don't know, your honor," Korn-Wyatt said.

Booker again quizzed the men. "You two were the only individuals involved with
this?" Booker asked.

"Yes, your honor" was the reply.

Until a few weeks ago, the crime was a cold case. "A dead end," one police
lieutenant said. But in mid-June, three informants showed up at Montclair's
police headquarters asking if the $1,000 reward was still good. It was.

The first arrest--of Poris--came July 27, followed by the others almost a year
to the day since vandals uprooted the rhizomes, some of which were lost and
others since painstakingly replanted in makeshift beds in the hope they will
bloom and be identified.

In her arguments, Poris' attorney, Jean Barrett, noted Poris came to police
headquarters voluntarily when contacted. Booker wasn't impressed, however.

"Well, they've been looking for him for over a year," Booker said.

Yesterday, Poris and Korn-Wyatt, wearing suits, stood shoulder to shoulder
with their attorneys as Linda Sercus, the Presby garden's interim
superintendent, approached the bench to read a statement stressing the serious
ness of the crime.

"Registered as a state and national landmark, Presby is regarded as one of the
nation's premiere iris gardens," she said in a loud and clear voice. "Its
legacy is appreciated by thousands of visitors each year. Therefore, we
respectfully ask the court to consider the vandalism as a crime against both
the gar dens and the community."

The statement prompted Booker to question the prosecutor about the downgrade
of the charges.

"It doesn't sound like an amendment (to the charge) to me," Booker said.

Argirios Karydes, the municipal prosecutor, said the defendants had no prior
criminal history as best he knew. "They're giving them a second opportunity,"
Karydes said.

Booker wanted to give them more, specifically community service. "It's
somewhat disturbing, but I'm confined by this statute," he said.

The lesser charge falls under a municipal ordinance, one Booker said lacks a
sentencing option for community service, something he said he's been
requesting from Montclair's elected officials for years.

But Barrett said her client might be voluntarily rolling up his sleeves at the

"Oh yeah, we're going to work that out," she said after the hearing. "As the
prosecutor said, a resolution that brings the gardens back and doesn't ruin
the lives of two young men."

To Sercus, who was accompanied by three members of the Presby board of
trustees to watch the proceedings, the morning was a stressful one.

"This has all been very unnerv ing," she said. "As a human, you're
sympathetic, but it's not my job to be sympathetic... It takes a lot of time,
energy (to work the gardens). It's year-round."

Asked whether she was happy with the verdicts, Susan Noran, a Presby board
member, said simply:

"Our feeling is we are glad that the matter has been resolved. We're glad that
Presby will receive restitution."

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