Wessels sentenced

Nicolas Wessels awaits sentencing with attorney Mark Milder. (Bethany Carson photo.)

Nicolas Wessels, 24, of Clarksville was sentenced Monday morning after pleading guilty to charges of Arson 2nd degree and Criminal Mischief 2nd degree.

     The brunt of Wessel’s sentence will revolve around financial restitution to the city for damages to the city hall and concession stand, the amount of which will be determined at a hearing at a later date. The amount will likely be whatever portion of the damage is not covered fully by insurance.

   Wessels will serve three to five years of supervised probation, with a suspended maximum sentence of 10 years of prison and a suspended $100 fine for arson, as well as a suspended maximum 5 years of prison and $750 suspended fine for criminal mischief. He will be required to participate in substance abuse classes and mental health counseling, and must submit to a DNA requirement. The sentences will run concurrently with each other and with any sentence stemming from a probation revocation on a deferred judgement for possession of controlled substance, marijuana in 2016.

     Wessels said he was capable of working, and his attorney indicated he intended to attempt to find employment, which would enable him to work toward paying restitution. “I’d just like to apologize to the city of Clarksville, especially the mayor, Val Swinton,” Wessels said before his sentencing. “I just had a really bad mental health incident that day, and I’m seeking help with that.”

    Judge Christopher Foy followed the recommendation agreed on by both the attorneys for the prosecution and defense in handing down the sentence.

    “We’re cognizant of the fact that this is a very serious offense very damaging to the community. I know Mr. Wessels feels very remorseful about that…” said Mark Milder, Wessels’ attorney. “The fact and circumstances of this situation are, Mr. Wessels has for a long time struggled with mental health. He had been on medication since he was a young boy, and gotten off his medications due to difficulties with the side effects. He was also going through some family difficulties at the time. … He chose not to pursue any sort of defense in that regard. I think he has been willing to take responsibility for his actions and what he was doing that day.”

    Milder also said that Wessels had “no bone to pick” with the city. He said the city was a random victim of Wessels’ mental health situation.

    Judge Foy noted the significant damage done to city buildings as well as the inconvenience caused city employees and residents of the community. He also took into consideration Wessels’ lack of a criminal record.

    “The court has to accomplish three goals. One goal is the rehabilitation of the defendant. The second goal is to protect the community from further criminal conduct by the defendant. And the third goal is to deter others from engaging in similar conduct to that which resulted in the defendant being charged and prosecuted,” said Judge Foy.

    Foy made it clear that violation of probation would likely result in an imposed prison sentence.

    “Based on my review of events and testimony here, I was left with the pretty firm conviction that mental health issues were the primary, if not the exclusive precipitating condition or event for the crime being committed. And you have no control over the conditions that you deal with. You do have control over how you deal with them, how you try to function at your highest level with those conditions,” Foy said. “It seems that the recommendation here is appropriate, because having you on probation, there will be a way for the state to monitor how you’re doing with your mental health treatment, monitor whether your continuing to take your medication as prescribed. Once the matter of restitution is determined, you’ll have the opportunity to …make some effort at atoning for what you did, and the damage that your crimes caused. I think that in your situation, restitution and mental health treatment will go a long way toward your rehabilitation and protecting the community.”

    Clarksville Mayor Val Swinton expressed hopes Wessels would work to make the best of his sentence.

    “I sincerely hope Nick gets the mental health treatment he needs. I’m concerned about cutbacks in the mental health industry. It seems like they’re taking a lot of short cuts these days. I hope he get help he needs,” said Mayor Val Swinton. “I appreciate him apologizing to me but hope he understands the inconvenience and hardships he’s caused. City Clerk Lori Peterson and Deputy Clerk Kayla Hinders have to work every day in limited facilities. I hope Nick can straighten his life up and become a productive citizen in the community.” 

Read more in the January 25 edition of the STAR.