Car vandal must repay victims

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BENNINGTON — A local man who admitted to vandalizing cars downtown one night last spring has been ordered to pay restitution.

David J. Cowan, 27, pleaded guilty in Bennington criminal court on Tuesday to two misdemeanor counts of unlawful mischief greater than $250 stemming from the April 22 acts.

Cowan was fined $1,000 ($500 for each count) on top of any required surcharges. He was also ordered to make payments to victims. As of Tuesday, that totaled $400 to three vehicle owners.

Deputy State's Attorney Jonathan Ward said the full restitution would likely rise to several thousand dollars and cover victims' out-of-pocket expenses that weren't covered by insurance. Ward said the resolution was appropriate given Cowan's limited criminal history. "The driving force of the agreement was to make victims whole again." The behavior "was out of character" for Cowan and came after he drank excessively at JC's Tavern on Depot Street, Ward said.

Vermont Superior Court Judge David A. Howard accepted the plea agreement, which called for dismissing eight felony counts, telling Cowan, "You have to make up to these people."

Bennington police responded to the area of Gage Street just before 1 a.m. on April 22 for a report of a man walking down the street and "keying" all the cars he passed, according to a court affidavit. Officers found a man who matched the suspect's description, who they identified to be Cowan. But victims couldn't identify him as the suspect. Police later reviewed video surveillance footage taken from a local variety store. In an interview with police, Cowan said he vandalized vehicles.

Defense attorney Jeffrey Rubin said Cowan was distressed over a relationship ending, was angry and "had way too much to drink." Rubin said Cowan feels he has been a good member of the community, works full time and wanted to avoid having a felony on his record.

Under the plea agreement, the state dismissed eight counts of felony unlawful mischief greater than $1,000; six misdemeanor counts of unlawful mischief; and two misdemeanor counts of giving false information to police.

Ed Damon can be reached at edamon@benningtonbanner.com, at @edamon_banner on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 111.


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