SALT LAKE CITY -- What was intended as a prank in the Utah-Brigham Young rivalry has a group of Ute baseball players facing punishment much more severe than either school could dish out.
Painting red U's on the Y on the mountainside overlooking
the BYU campus in Provo got the players charged with a felony.
Defense attorneys are trying to get it reduced, but so far it's
standing and a court hearing is scheduled for June 21.
"I'll be the first to admit we should be punished. There should
have been something done," pitcher Ryan Breska said Thursday.
"But a second-degree felony charge seems a little much."
Breska, a reliever who graduated last month, and seven others
are charged with second-degree felony mischief, which carries a
maximum sentence of up to 15 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Breska was arrested May 10 when he went to pick up pictures
taken as the Y was painted April 30, the night before the Utes
wrapped up a three-game series at BYU.
"We did it in the hopes that it would be there for our next
game on Saturday, just to add some fire to the rivalry -- not that
it needs much," Breska said.
The Utes saw the effort had failed when the "Y" was a crisp
white again by game time the next afternoon. BYU also won 14-9,
completing a three-game sweep.
Breska thought that was the end of the prank, until he went to
pick up his pictures at a local grocery store. A photo clerk who
saw the pictures called police, who had no trouble deducing Utah
baseball players were involved because the film included shots from
a team trip to New Orleans in February.
Police were waiting for Breska when he went to pick up the
photos and was taken to the Utah County Jail, where he spent the
night on the felony charge. Breska was released the next day and
police called Utah coach Tim Esmay to identify the other players,
who were suspended for a game and later charged.
Ryan Florence, Tyler Kmetko, Tyson Olson, Jacob Waldram and Eric Schaler, Jay Brossman and Jason Price are also charged. Schaler, a freshman pitcher, quit the team before the end of the season.
Jeff Buhman, a deputy Utah County attorney who is prosecuting the case, said the charge is a felony because the damage estimate was more than $1,000, the cutoff between a misdemeanor and felony. Pranks between the state's biggest rivals are common. Prosecuting them is not, Buhman said.
"Most of the time people don't get caught from either
university. These guys got caught," Buhman said.
The giant Y is on a mountainside east of campus and is not
accessible by road. Because painters had to climb the hill and use
several coats of white to cover the red, the cost of repairing the
damage was estimated between $2,000 and $5,000.
BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said similar pranks in the
longtime rivalry have been less frequent the past few years.
"I think people have realized the damage that's done and the
financial ramifications to the damage," Jenkins said.