The 20-year-old Lewiston man who broke into the old Lewiston High School building on Normal Hill in April pleaded guilty Tuesday to a felony charge of malicious injury to property for inflicting an estimated $20,000 in damage while he was inside.
Lance J. Anittila will be sentenced by 2nd District Judge Jay Gaskill on July 13. The maximum penalty for malicious injury to property is five years in prison and a $1,000 fine. But if Gaskill goes along with a plea agreement, Anittila will serve up to five years probation.
Prosecutors also dropped a felony burglary charge as part of the deal, and Gaskill can consider giving Anittila a withheld judgment, meaning his conviction will be removed from his record if he successfully completes probation.
According to court records, Anittila and another man broke in through a window and vandalized various areas of the building. Damage included broken windows and glass throughout the first floor area, urine on the floor, trashed rooms, extensive spray paint of vulgar language and images, a destroyed computer and monitor, papers placed on a chair and lit on fire, and fire extinguisher powder on tables, chairs and the floor.
A display case near the front entrance that holds a statue of Abraham Lincoln was damaged and a bust of John F. Kennedy was stolen from another display case. A room under the west stairwell that was previously the school’s DECA store was completely trashed, with a glass display case destroyed and other damage, according to the affidavit.
A set of two-way radios and an Ipod were also stolen during the incident, and surveillance footage from inside the building showed Anittila spray-painting a flag case and the surveillance camera itself. The discharge from the fire extinguishers also provided a crucial clue: footprints in the white dust left behind. Lewiston police were able to identify the type of shoes one of the men was wearing, and a sharp-eyed officer spotted them on the street a couple of days later, leading to arrests.
Charges have not yet been filed against the other man who allegedly participated in the break-in. Nez Perce County Prosecutor Justin Coleman said potential charges are still being reviewed.
The old high school building has been largely vacant since the new Lewiston High School opened in the Lewiston Orchards last year.
Mills may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (208) 310-1901, ext. 2266.