Groce resentenced in Jaycees fireworks theft, arson
A Havre man was resentenced to spend two years in the custody of the state followed by five years of probation for his role in the theft from and destruction of the local Jaycees' fireworks stand two years ago.
Anthony Groce, born in 1990, admitted committing 18 violations of conditions of his release on deferred impositions of sentence for the June 30, 2009, burlgary and arson of the Jaycees' stand, which the service organization uses to fund its annual Independence Day fireworks display.
Groce pleaded guilty in 2010 to felony counts of arson by accountability, burglary and theft. Judge David Rice imposed a six-year deferred imposition of sentence on each charge, to run at the same time.
Under a deferred imposition of sentence, if Groce had abided by all conditions of his release, at the end of the probationary period he could have petitioned to have the felony charges struck from his record.
After he admitted last week in state District Court in Havre to the violations, Judge James Wheelis revoked the deferred imposition of sentence.
Wheelis resentenced Groce to seven years with the state Department of Corrections, with five suspended. He credited Groce for time served, but gave him no credit for street time.
The violations of the conditions of his release included consuming marijuana, illegally using the prescription painkiller hydrocone, being fired from his job for theft, multiple cases of failing to report to his probation and parole officer, not serving his required jail time, failing to make sufficient payments on restitution, failing to complete required community service, and failing to complete a chemical dependency evaluation.
Groce, Lester Skramstad and Charles Stratton broke into the Jaycees fireworks stand at the Holiday Village Mall parking lot the early morning of June 30. After stealing a large amount of fireworks — Stratton's car was so full Groce had to remain by the stand while Skramstad and Stratton took the fireworks away and unloaded them, then returned — Skramstad and Stratton threw lit flares into the stand, leading to the complete destruction of it and its contents.
Those contents included some personal items of Jaycees who had worked at the stand.
Sale of the fireworks pays for the annual Independence Day fireworks show the Jaycees put on each Fourth of July at the Great Northern Fairgrounds.
With the recovery of some of the stolen fireworks, and donations — including cash donations from around the United States — the Jaycees were able to put on their 2009 display.
Some of the donations came from around the country, as Jaycees heard of the Havre service organization's plight and sent cash to help.
All three pleaded guilty to the charges against them without plea agreements. Rice ordered them to jointly pay more than $55,000 in restitution, plus a 10 percent fee, to the Jaycees and its members who lost personal property in the fire.
Skramstad was sentenced in February 2010 to 10 years, all but 120 days suspended, on a count of arson and to five years, all but 96 days suspended, on each of a count of burglary and of theft.
After he admitted last July to committing 15 violations of conditions of his release, including failing to make payments on the restitution, Rice revoked Skramstad's suspended sentence and resentenced him to 10 years with the DOC with the last five suspended for the arson count and to five years for each of the burglary and theft charges. He ordered the three sentences to run at the same time and credited Skramstad with time served in custody.
Stratton is serving six years of a deferred imposition of sentence for his role in the incident.