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Two graffiti vandals flout sentences

Two graffiti vandals who police said caused $100,000 in damage throughout the city stopped showing up for court-ordered community service jobs months ago, officials said Thursday.

And graffiti "tagging" using their nicknames, "Merk" and "Lions," have begun to reappear since their convictions last September, said Lt. Sam Lunetta of the Buffalo State College Police Department.

City Judge Deborah L. Givens summoned Derek Thurlow and Fernando Godinez, both 25, back to her courtroom Thursday, but neither appeared. Instead, in letters, the two denied further involvement with graffiti and indicated they plan to complete their 150 hours of community service.

The proceeding was adjourned until next month.

Both men are believed to be living in the area; Godinez was from the New York City area.

"We could potentially bring charges" during the next hearing, prosecutor Thomas D. Kubiniec said in court.

In plea deals last year, Givens reduced the felony criminal mischief charges and let the two plead guilty to attempted graffiti-making, a misdemeanor.

While that offense carries a possible 90-day jail term, Givens sentenced Thurlow and Godinez to 150 hours of community service, to be completed within a year. Givens also ordered each to pay $1,250 in restitution, which they have done. Givens also granted each defendant a conditional discharge.

Godinez worked a total of 24 hours on some Saturdays last fall in New York City's Riverside Park, but he hasn't reported back since November.

Thurlow also showed up for the first days of his community service assignment.

"It lasted a couple of weeks," said James Pavel, the city's director of support services, who was to supervise Thurlow.

Thurlow spent a couple of days moving top soil and mulch for a garden on the West Side and did some computer work. Then he missed some days between assignments before not showing up at all. Pavel hadn't heard from him in months until Wednesday -- the day before the court hearing.

"Out of the blue, I got a call from him asking if he could come in and do his service," Pavel said.

Pavel advised him to wait until hearing what the judge said.

Pamela Beal, coordinator of the volunteer Graffiti Hurts Task Force of Buffalo and Erie County, said she would like the court to require the two to follow a schedule of community service assignments, agreed to in advance with those supervising the work.

e-mail: plakamp@buffnews.com

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