Jury finds man guilty of destroying expensive drill
TIMARU HERALD STAFF REPORTER
It took a jury 2 1/2 hours yesterday to find a Timaru man guilty of destroying a directional drill worth $293,000.
John David McCleary, 20, had defended charges of arson and attempted arson before a jury in the Timaru District Court.
It was the third day of his trial, with the jury sent out at 3.40pm to deliberate after closing statements. The jury returned at 6.10pm with its guilty verdicts.
His two co-accused both pleaded guilty earlier and were sentenced to home detention and to pay $40,000 reparation each.
McCleary was remanded in custody until 11.45am today for a bail application to be made before he is sentenced on September 20.
The Crown said that, in the early hours of August 26 last year, McCleary and two associates set alight a tractor at Timaru's CBay aquatic centre, then threw rocks at the tractor, breaking several windows. The group carried on to Park View Tce where they came across a horizontal directional drill being used to lay fibre-optic cable.
The three are said to have set the drill alight, destroying the machine. It had a replacement value of $293,000 and $48,000 had been claimed in income replacement. Overall reparation of $120,000 was sought.
Judge Alistair Garland had directed the jury that they could find McCleary guilty as a party to the offence, while not being the principal offender. While he may have not actively carried out the arson, he may have actively encouraged it. However, it was not an offence to stand by and not interfere.
In a recorded police interview played to the jury on Tuesday, McCleary said he could not remember what had happened on the night in question, apart from being given a warning for breaching the liquor ban.
Later, on the stand, McCleary said he had made those comments to police to protect his friends.
He said he was some distance behind his two co-accused and did not see them set fire to a rubbish bin at the skatepark as they walked through Caroline Bay past CBay to McDonald's.
"I heard glass breaking and saw them vandalising a tractor and trying to light a piece of rubbish on fire," McCleary said.
"Naturally I walked up to see what they were doing, then retreated and walked toward the back of the digger."
On Monday a co-accused gave evidence that McCleary had not been involved in the attempted arson of the tractor but had been involved in setting alight the directional drill.
- © Fairfax NZ News