MSU celebratory bonfires to cost some students $908

EAST LANSING (LANSING STATE JOURNAL) — Two months after revelers celebrated a historic football victory by setting bonfires and burning couches, several of those arrested each will pay more than $900 in fines and restitution.

A total of 27 people have been charged in connection with the Dec. 7-8 disturbances that followed the Michigan State University football team's win over Ohio State, which earned the team a trip to the Rose Bowl. East Lansing police Capt. Jeff Murphy on Monday confirmed the number of people charged. Most are MSU students.

54B District Court records show that seven people have entered guilty pleas, which have been taken under advisement. In all those cases, the defendants initially were charged with being within 300 feet of an open fire, a city ordinance violation punishable by up to 90 days in jail.

As part of an agreement with East Lansing city prosecutors, if they don't commit new crimes within six months, don't use drugs or alcohol, and pay restitution, fines and costs, the charge will be reduced to a littering ticket. The total amount assessed in all but two of the seven cases was $908, according to court records. In one case it was $848, and in another, $1,318.

Attorney George Zulakis, who represents a handful of defendants, including some who remain under investigation, said the plea agreements allow those charged to "walk away without a criminal record."

They also won't be banned from attending any public colleges or universities, Zulakis said.

Three defendants have plea hearings scheduled for later this month. Charges against three MSU freshmen in the theft of a parking sign were dismissed last month by prosecutors, records show.

Of the remaining 14 defendants, most are charged with being within 300 feet of an open fire. Several also face an additional charge of assembling for a riot, also a city ordinance violation.

Only three of the 27 defendants were charged with kindling or maintaining an open fire, court records show.

Zulakis said many of the arrests happened after the people who actually set the fires were gone.

He said the legality of an ordinance that bars people from being a certain distance of an open fire still could be challenged.

"The law frowns upon people being accused of criminal behavior for merely being present during the commission of a crime," he said.


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