STAUNTON -- Two Clay County juveniles were arrested earlier this week in connection with the theft of several political signs in the Staunton area.
According to Staunton Town Marshal Chuck Jones, the two juveniles were arrested Monday and eventually transported to a juvenile facility before appearing before Clay Circuit Court Judge Joe Trout Wednesday.
"They had their initial hearing Wednesday," Jones said.
According to Jones, he received a call during the weekend from a Staunton resident informing him there were approximately 25 political signs in her yard.
Jones told The Brazil Times he went to the home and talked to a juvenile, which led the marshal to another juvenile's home. While there to discuss the issue, Jones said he received a statement regarding the situation.
It was learned a total of 38 signs -- mostly political advertisements -- were displaced.
Eventually, the two juveniles were released to their parents.
Jones called the situation a "prank gone wrong."
"I'm sure they didn't realize it and they probably don't know the statutes, but it's a (class) D felony," Jones said.
Clay County Prosecutor Lee Reberger said through the course of the investigation, it was learned one political sign for Trout -- who is running for re-election -- had been displaced. During the initial hearing Wednesday, that was disclosed and both parties agreed it would not be a conflict of interest for Trout.
Reberger said the range of penalties for juveniles in such cases include detention to probation, terms of supervision and community service. Previous criminal history and the seriousness of the offense are also taken into consideration, he said.
He added ranges of penalties for adults include being charged for theft or conversion.
Reberger added the state could charge trespass.
Reberger said he has heard of other political sign stealing taking place this year, but not at this magnitude.
"It has happened previously, but not to this scale," Reberger said. "A candidate from a specific office may find a sign here or a sign there missing. It's very difficult to determine if it is targeted at the candidate or just random or weather related. A lot of times, candidates will not be able to determine that and will just have to replace the sign or not replace it."
Officials said a third person may have been involved, but information regarding the individual was not known at press time.