Nine military veterans attended an arraignment hearing Thursday at the Trumbull County Courthouse to call attention to what they see as insufficient penalties under Ohio law for desecrating a grave.
Their protest comes after charges were filed against two Hubbard-Masury men charged with stealing a grave marker and $36,000 brass statue from the Mahoning Valley Memorial Park on Hubbard Road in Hubbard Township, near the Trumbull-Mahoning county line.
Jim Campbell, past commander of Howland Post 700 of the American Legion, said the desecration law on the books makes desecration of a grave a second-degree misdemeanor offense.
Because the punishment is relatively small, Campbell said it may be tempting for criminals to steal from graves to get money for scrap metal.
“The Legislature needs to look at a way to have it so it’s not worthwhile,” Campbell said of taking items from graves.
“A veteran’s grave is close to our hearts,” Campbell said. “For someone to come in and desecrate a veteran’s grave for $25?”
Police said Richard R. Couturiaux, 30, of Main Street in Hubbard and Michael A. Cryster, 27, of West Ohio Street in Masury took the marker and 4-foot statue in March, and Couturiaux scrapped portions of the statue for $25.50 at Girard Recycling Center.
The marker, which later was found in Cryster’s garage in Brookfield Township, belonged to the grave of a World War II veteran who died in 2010.
The veterans, all members of Post 700, attended Couturiaux’s arraignment, where Couturiaux pleaded innocent to felony receiving stolen property and vandalism and two counts of misdemeanor desecration.
Judge Ronald Rice increased Couturiaux’s bond from $75,000 to $250,000. Couturiaux returns to court Tuesday before Judge Andrew Logan. Cryster will be arraigned Monday before Judge Peter Kontos on the same charges as Couturiaux.