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Teen jailed for part in Holland-area business arson, break-ins

By Audra Gamble/The Holland Sentinel • Aug 14, 2018 at 11:00 AM

A Rockford teenager who broke into several businesses and helped burn down a Holland Township business was sentenced Monday to eight months in jail.

David Anthony Pelon, 17, previously pleaded guilty to breaking and entering a building with intent to commit a felony.

Pelon was arrested by Ottawa County Sheriff's deputies in November 2017 along with Shane Wheeler, 49, of Holland Township. Wheeler is suspected of leading the pair in committing at least 12 break-ins of Holland-area businesses and burning down Graphix Signs and Embroidery on Nov. 20.

When Wheeler and Pelon were arrested, police found evidence of two business break-ins, stolen cash, property and burglary tools in their vehicle.

At the time of his arrest, Pelon was just a few days shy of his 17th birthday. However, prosecutors moved the case from juvenile court to adult criminal proceedings.

Pelon's lawyer, John Moritz, asked Ottawa County Circuit Judge Jon Hulsing to sentence Pelon under the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act. The act allows people ages 17-24 who commit specific crimes to keep a mistake made in young adulthood off their permanent record. If someone is sentenced under HYTA, the public record of their court case is sealed and a judge will dismiss the charges against that person upon successful completion of a probation period.

Hulsing, however, denied Pelon a HYTA sentence.

"You burned a business down, so no," Hulsing said to Pelon. "The court does not believe (you are) eligible for HYTA. You have been given the appropriate amount of lenience given your age by the prosecuting attorney in their charging decisions."

Pelon was originally charged with two additional breaking and entering counts that aren’t being prosecuted. At his sentencing, prosecutors mentioned that he also wasn't charged for arson or conspiracy to commit arson, which were possibilities.

"I am sorry I got caught up with the wrong person," Pelon said before he was sentenced. "I am still in high school, I want to walk across the stage and graduate high school. I want to move on and be a hardworking individual and not steal from others."

On Monday, Hulsing sentenced Pelon to 240 days in the Ottawa County Jail, with credit for 152 days already served. Once he is released from jail, Pelon will have to serve 36 months probation, pay court fees and attorney costs of $780, and restitution of an undetermined amount. He will also have to complete 100 hours of community service.

If Pelon violates any part of his probation requirements, Hulsing warned the teen that there would be "serious penalties."

“Even though you were young, what you said and did was disgusting," the judge said. "Having indicated to you that what you did was beyond the pale, that’s in the past. I do believe you have learned from these errors and this significant jail sentence is going to dissuade you from that type of conduct in the future. You’re going to be paying restitution on the offenses for quite some time. I hope you understand that."

Wheeler will appear in court in October for a final pretrial conference on his charges in front of Judge Karen Miedema.

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