Every Christmas season we receive dozens of reports of stolen or vandalized public nativity scenes from across America. Rarely is any ever caught or punished for the crimes. News out of Virginia bucks that trend when a man from the town of Forest, Virginia was tried and convicted for stealing and then destroying a nativity scene.
While he won’t have felony convictions on his record, Scott Cooley must spend a year in jail for stealing – and subsequently destroying – the Nativity scene at Shiloh United Methodist Church in Forest, a judge ruled.
Cooley pleaded guilty Tuesday to one misdemeanor count each of petty larceny and destruction of property.
He, along with two other men, initially faced a felony count each of grand larceny and destruction of property worth over $1,000.
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Ayers asked Circuit Court Judge James Updike to amend the felony counts to misdemeanors at the request of church officials.
The church, while wanting to hold Cooley and his cohorts accountable, did not want to push for felony convictions, Ayers said.
She characterized Cooley as the ringleader of a group that took the nativity scene, valued at over $2,000, on Dec. 9.
They subsequently posted a picture of themselves on Facebook with the set, and later destroyed the figures, which included a baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph and three wise men.
Ayers said after reports of the theft surfaced, the group cut the figures into pieces and took them to the Bedford County landfill.