To the good citizens of Blanco County and those who will ultimately decide the fate of Dustin Garrett and Stephen Howells:
We agree wholeheartedly that a serious crime was committed against the residents and business owners of Johnson City and Blanco. We understand that because of the nature of the offense (tampering with a municipal water supply system) that the Feds are now involved under Homeland Security statutes. Finally, we are aware that the suspects have been released on separate $100,000 bonds.
We pose the question: What might be the outcome(s) if the case goes to trial? The young men and/or their families were able to raise the bond money; perhaps they also have the funds to hire a crack defense team, secure an acquittal and walk. In the other extreme, a federal prosecutor, under pressure from the FBI and an outraged citizenry, wins a conviction on all charges and a judge then sentences the accused to an extended stay in a federal penitentiary with hardened criminals.
We ask you to consider a third alternative. The crime was committed against us, the residents of Blanco County. Fortunately, no one was killed or injured nor was there extensive property damage, aside from pavement. Can we not settle this right here, with minimal expense and time wasted in what could turn into, at best, a media circus?
Let local law enforcement complete an investigation and secure a confession from the two. In exchange for their full confession, a local judge sentences the offenders to the following:
1. Two years of municipal public service: one year to Blanco and one to Johnson City for a total of two years.
2. Their work would be supervised by the manager of the respective water utility district in each town. Jobs would include outdoor manual labor in all weather to repair the damaged streets, all water system repairs and maintenance; including hydrant and tank maintenance, ditching to pipe work, brush clearing and removal, and fire fighting. In the process, they would be educated about our water supply and why conservation is so extremely important.
3. Finally, both would be required to prepare and deliver talks to the assembled student bodies at the public schools to tell their story… of how poor choices, however motivated (boredom, temporary insanity, whatever) result in serious, humiliating, life-changing consequences. And, how precious our water resources have become in Blanco County—including recommendations how students and their families can be more conservation-minded.
We propose that Dustin and Garrett be compensated at the lowest pay grade for municipal workers, and that they pay taxes on their income.
Should either of them violate ANY of the terms of the probated sentence during the two-year period, we propose the offender be immediately brought up on all of the original charges and tried by a jury of their peers in the appropriate court of law.
We ask you, the public and the courts, to consider each option objectively: the cost to the taxpayers, the odds for recidivism versus rehabilitation and ultimately, the responsible and right thing to do.
Terry Mills and Lindy Segall
Johnson City, TX