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Life-ring thief must teach water safety in a lakefront park

By James Ewinger • Updated Apr 11, 2018 at 9:02 AM

PAINESVILLE (TNS) — Painesville Municipal Court Judge Michael Cicconetti was at it again Tuesday, handing down an alternative sentence that got the undivided attention of a defendant and court observers alike.

The crime was the theft of a $75 life ring from the new pier at Painesville Township Park, which is managed by Lake Metroparks.

The defendant was an 18-year-old, Nicholas Hasenauer, who is a high school senior with straight A's except for a lone D in environmental science.

The judge made him watch a two-part video taken from surveillance cameras.

One part showed him and a girl walking up from the pier with the ring in late February. The other showed him throwing the ring in the back of his pickup truck and driving off.

The judge asked him how many rings there are supposed to be there (answer: two) and how far apart they are (100 yards).

Cicconetti said the lake temperature is 32 degrees and made Hasenauer contemplate how long someone would last in the frigid waters if one ring was missing and someone had to run to the other end of the pier to get the other one.

The judge said he walked the pier earlier in the day, and likened the theft to stealing smoke detectors or defibrillators — two other lifesaving devices.

Hasenauer told the judge he takes that very seriously because “I have had people, like friends of mine, drown.”

Cicconetti said he considered ordering park rangers to take him to the pier and drop him into the lake, but thought better of it because the young man seemed genuinely contrite, unlike the previous time he appeared in court.

Then the judge pulled out big bag of Lifesaver candy rolls. He told Hasenauer he was going to spend four consecutive Saturdays this summer handing out the candy and telling park visitors on the pier how to tell if someone is drowning and what to do.

He gave him the choice between that and serving 60 days in jail. Hasenauer chose to teach the public after taking a water-safety course with the Red Cross.

Talking to reporters afterward, Cicconetti said that his creative sentencings are “not all fun and games. I want to do something meaningful.

“I’ll bet that young man won’t be in a courtroom again,” he said.

In the past, the judge ordered a drunk driver to view the bodies of crash victims, forced a man to become homeless for a day for stealing a Salvation Army collection kettle around Christmas, and made a woman stand outside a Madison church with a sign that said “I stole coins from this church,” spelled out in pennies and visible to congregants as they left services there.

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