Two of Three Fighting Yank Vandals Given Second Chance
[7-19-12] Two of the three men accused of damaging and beheading a World War II statue at a local middle school have taken plea deals, and the third has an upcoming court date.
Justin Russell of Mount Holly and Steven Morgan of Stanley have both accepted deferred prosecution agreements. Both have to pay $5,000 in restitution and be on supervised probation for 15 months. They agreed to work 1,000 hours or earn their GED diplomas and testify against their co-defendants. Each must complete 100 hours of community service within a year's time.
If Russell and Morgan comply with those terms, their charges will be dismissed.
Henry Diegert of Mount Holly still faces charges of felony larceny, conspiracy to commit felony larceny, defacing a public statue and misdemeanor conspiracy to commit felony larceny. He has a court-appointed lawyer and has a court date scheduled for July 30.
Belmont Police say Russell, Morgan and Diegert vandalized the “The Spirit of the Fighting Yank” statue near the front of Belmont Middle School, decapitated the figure and threw its head into Dutchman's Creek in Mount Holly on July 24, 2011. Police arrested the men in February.
Pieces of the soldier's head were recovered from the creek with the help of Gastonia Police scuba divers.
Conservation Solutions Inc. out of Washington, D.C., restored the statue at a cost of about $30,000. Money to pay for the restoration came from Gaston County Schools insurance company and community members.
The zinc sculpture was created by Ernest Moore Viquesney. Just four other statues like it exist. They're in Chicago, Port Huron, Mich., Bloomington, Ind., and Oil City, Pa.
The 1943 World War II statue depicting a soldier at the ready had stood near the front of the middle school since 1946.