The two Chapman students accused of stealing and abusing Orange High School’s Tim the turkey pleaded guilty during their arraignment Sept. 1 to entering an animal enclosure without consent, according to court records.
The arraignment comes two days after the turkey was euthanized, according to Patti Williams, an agriculture teacher at Orange High School.
“We put him down after months of medication and treatment,” Williams wrote in an email. “Our veterinarian and I decided this was the most humane thing for him. Many people have been affected by this little turkey and the cruelty he was given. We are all sad that he lost his life because of these two people.”
At the hearing, held in the Superior Court of Orange County, senior Richard “Brent” Melbye and former Chapman student Steven Koressel were each charged with a misdemeanor and sentenced to one day of jail, one year of probation and 100 hours of community service.
In addition to the sentencing, Koressel and Melbye must each submit a DNA sample to the Combined DNA Index System, as well as maintain a length of 100 yards away from Orange High School at all times, according to Roxi Fyad, the Orange County District Attorney Office’s spokeswoman.
Koressel and Melbye were also ordered to pay a total restitution of $447 to Saddleback Animal Hospital, where Tim’s evaluation and treatment took place, Fyad said.
The two students, who were Chapman lacrosse players, were arrested April 18 in connection with the theft and abuse of Tim. They were released without bail from Orange County Jail the following day on the condition that they would attend their future court date, according to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department’s arrest records.
However, although Koressel and Melbye pleaded guilty, they were not present in court for their sentencing Sept. 1. They are expected to return to court in March to evaluate the progress of their community service.
Defense attorney Lolita Kirk, who represents Koressel and Melbye, did not respond to The Panther’s requests for comment.
Jerry Price, vice chancellor for student affairs and dean of students, confirmed that Melbye is still a student at Chapman. Although Koressel participated in the commencement ceremony last spring, he did not graduate and is not currently enrolled in the university.
Price added that the only leverage the university has over a student once he or she has finished all academic requirements is to withhold a degree, but this only happens in rare circumstances. Price anticipates that Koressel will return to Chapman in future semesters to finish his degree.
Melbye and Koressel were suspended from the lacrosse team following their arrest, but were allowed to compete in the national championships in May, University Spokesperson Mary Platt told The Panther last spring.
Platt wrote in an email that she is unable to comment on what form of disciplinary action the university will take against Melbye and Koressel due to federal student privacy laws.
However, Price views trespassing as a serious offense.
“As part of our neighbor-relations issue, one of the more frustrating allegations we get is that neighbors say students come onto their property,” Price told The Panther Aug. 25. “If in the end, they’re charged with trespassing, then that’s something we will definitely want to look at for disciplinary action as well.”
Koressel and Melbye did not respond to a request for comment.
Effect on neighborhood conflict
The charges come in the middle of conflict between the city of Orange and Chapman. Neighbors have voiced their concerns about the university’s expansion plan, parties hosted by students and other issues.
Peter Schumacher, an Orange resident who has lived near Chapman for 10 years, thinks the timing of the incident is bad for the university and neighborhood, despite the positive experiences he has personally had with students.
“The neighborhood has been at odds with the students and tensions were already high. It’s terrible what they did,” Schumacher said. “Stealing the turkey and treating it the way they did is very disappointing. I wish they would have owned up to it better, including the school itself. I hope those students and the college do their best to make it right with the high school and community.”
Tim the turkey’s veterinarian at Saddleback Animal Hospital and OC Animal Care did not respond to requests for comment to verify the details of what happened to Tim in April.
Jamie Altman contributed to this report.
Read Patti Williams’ guest column about the Tim the turkey incident here.