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Vandals plead guilty, but can get felonies removed from their records

LOCKPORT – The two Lockport men who drunkenly smashed a bench memorializing a Lockport soldier killed in Iraq pleaded guilty to felonies Wednesday in an elaborate plea deal.

Spencer S. Lupo, 20, of Bob-o-Link Lane, and Garrett D. Sheehan, 21, of LeVan Avenue, will have a chance to remove the felonies from their records if they pay restitution within a month and keep out of trouble during two years on interim probation.

If they fail in their obligations, they give City Judge William J. Watson the chance to send them to state prison for as long as four years.

The stone bench, on a sidewalk on Locust Street in downtown Lockport, was vandalized Aug. 9. It honored Spc. Albert R. Jex, who died in Mosul, Iraq, Feb. 9, 2009, when a suicide car bomber rammed the Humvee in which Jex was riding.

The same night they broke the bench, Sheehan and Lupo also damaged a sign at Elite Vapors, an e-cigarette store on Walnut Street. They pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct for that.

The restitution for the two is a total of $1,895 for the bench and $412 for the store sign.

The bench money was to be $895 for Bill MacFarlane, Jex’ stepfather, and $1,000 for developer David L. Ulrich, who paid those amounts for the original bench.

However, Cathy MacFarlane, Jex’ mother, said Ulrich directed his share into the Jex Scholarship Fund for Lockport High School graduates.

The store restitution breaks down as $100 for store owner Jordan Bork and $312 for his landlord, Dennis J. Stachera.

A replacement bench honoring Jex was provided last fall by Orleans Monument Co. of Lockport and installed in Children’s Memorial Park on Lincoln Avenue in Lockport.

Under the terms of the plea bargain, Lupo and Sheehan must perform 250 hours of community service at a charitable agency that serves veterans. Sheehan’s attorney, George V.C. Muscato, said Sheehan already has arranged to work at the Veterans Administration in Buffalo.

Watson said there must be a minimum of 20 hours a month of community service.

Also, they must apologize face-to-face to Jex’ parents; Sheehan has already done so. He and Lupo must obey curfews set by their probation officer and either work or go to school full-time.

If they do all that and don’t get into any more trouble, in 2017 Watson will let them withdraw their felony pleas and plead guilty instead to disorderly conduct, a non-criminal violation. The judge called it “a high-risk, high-reward plea.”

“The families are allowing Mr. Lupo and Mr. Sheehan the chance to preserve their clean records,” Deputy District Attorney Theodore R. Brenner said.

“I’m relieved it’s finally over,” Cathy MacFarlane said. “You don’t do that to monuments for fallen heroes or veterans.”

A grim-faced group of about a dozen combat veterans looked on and applauded the outcome.

“This group is not exactly unintimidating,” Muscato said, noting that the veterans attended Sheehan’s apology to MacFarlane, where Sheehan went without any support.

“There’s a wide spectrum between the maturity shown in that meeting and the immaturity demonstrated in this matter,” Watson said.

Neither Sheehan nor Lupo spoke in court. Lupo’s lawyer, Robert Viola, apologized “to the extent their acts caused this emotional distress.”