Six Wildcat hockey players and one NMU student were charged with misdemeanors after several stolen bicycles were found in their possession.
The six underclassmen awaiting trial are Dylan Walchuk, 19; Mitchell Jones, 19; Eric Walker, 18; and Jake Baker, 20, all of British Columbia, Daniel Vandercook, 21, of Farmington Hills, Mich., and Stephan Vigier, 21, of Manitoba. NMU freshman Ryan Aynsley, 21, of British Columbia is also being charged. The alleged incidents took place on or around Sept. 23.
“Once the process is finalized, meaning all of the paperwork has been signed, sealed and delivered to the appropriate people, coach [Walt] Kyle will work on the final game suspension schedule with the athletic department,” said Cindy Paavola, NMU director of Communications and Marketing. “Some of the game suspensions have already started.”
After being reviewed by the student conduct system, athletes are sent to the Athletic Review Committee, which can additionally penalize athletes. The university is not required to wait for the court system to take action.
The Athletic Review Committee is in the final stages of completing its process for most, but not all of the players, Paavola said. The penalties given to the players who have completed the process at this point include warning, probation, restitution, multiple game suspensions, additional community service hours and decreases in scholarship money up to a few thousand dollars over multiple years.
“The team in its entirety also is required to perform additional community service hours,” Paavola said.
All suspects have gone through the student conduct system before the Athletic Review Committee. According to NMU’s student handbook, “no students shall, without authorization, use, consume, acquire, remove or detain property belonging to or rented by the University or belonging to or rented by a member of the University community including visitors and guests.” The penalty is not less than warning, not more than financial restitution and/or expulsion.
“Warning does not really exist,” said NMU Dean of Students Chris Greer. “In the new handbook, there is no warning, but that is not in effect yet.”
According to the police report, at 2:10 p.m. on Sept. 23, Public Safety Police Officer Shirley Clark was patrolling an area of the PEIF building in an attempt to locate a stolen bike reported earlier that day. Clark noticed Aynsley riding a girls bike and decided to make contact with him. She asked if the bike belonged to him.
The report said Aynsley told Clark the mountain bike was not his, that he borrowed it from his roommate, and that Aynsley said he was a varsity hockey player on his way to a team practice.
NMU head hockey coach Walt Kyle said Aynsley is not a member of the team.
Clark had no other information, so she allowed Ansyley to continue to practice and resumed looking for the stolen bike. She noticed several unattended and unlocked bikes located near the doorway of the Berry Events Center where Ansyley entered, according to the report.
Clark radioed Lt. Don Peterman of NMU Public Safety for assistance. While the bikes were monitored outside, Peterman and Clark entered the building, where bikes were parked on both sides of the hallway outside the hockey weight room and locker room, according to the police report. Peterman and Clark made contact with Aynsley again inside. Clark heard Peterman’s conversation with Aynsley, regarding the bikes, which were spray-painted.
“Aynsley stated ‘they paint the bikes.’ Lt. Peterman asked Aynsley who ‘they’ are and Aynsley replied NMU hockey players. Aynsley was asked who specifically on the hockey team paints bicycles. Aynsley claimed he didn’t wish to say, but knows they paint bikes,” the police report said.
According to the police report, Peterman waited in the hallway for the hockey team to finish practice. Clark made contact with assistant NMU hockey coach John Kyle and told him several bikes were cluttering the hallway and were a fire hazard. The bikes parked outside, believed to belong to his players, were blocking the entrance.
According to the police report, team captains Justin Florek and Scott Macaulay first made contact with Peterman. After waiting and realizing the players who brought the bikes to the Berry Events Center were not going to come out of the locker room, Peterman brought the bikes in one-by-one and asked who rode each to practice that day.
“Baker explained that the guys (NMU Hockey Team) just ride [the bikes] and share/interchange bikes with each other. [Clark] advised Baker there would be no problem with that program, as long as the bicycles were theirs to begin with,” the police report said.
According to the police report, when Aynsley was interviewed, he also talked about the bike-share system.
“Aynsley explained that if the upperclassmen need a bike, they just take it and everyone sort of knows that is the rule,” the police report said. It also said that according to Florek and Macaulay the bike swaping has been a “comman practice for years.”
According to the police report, only four suspects, not including Aynsley, admitted their involvement with the bicycles in question. A total of 13 bikes were confiscated; only three had been reported stolen at the time.
Aynsley and Walchuk were charged with receiving and concealing stolen property valued at less than $200, which is a misdemeanor punishable by 93 days in jail and/or $500 or three times the value of the property, whichever is greater.
Vandercook, Vigier, Baker, Jones and Walker were charged with receiving and concealing stolen property valued at more than $200, but less than $1,000. The misdemeanor is punishable with up to one year in jail and/or $2,000, or three times the value of the property stolen, whichever is greater.
“[The case] is being handled right now,” said Marquette County assistant prosecutor Andrew Griffen. “Like any other case, we have gone through the pretrial for the first five [suspects]. I think we are continuing discussions with the defense attorney and if we don’t get them resolved, we will start trials on Dec. 6.”
Vandercook, Baker, Jones, Walker and Walchuk are scheduled for jury trial on Dec. 6. Vigier and Aynsley are set for pretrial next week.
“It may be that they will be tried separately,” said Griffen, who handles criminal cases such as this for the county. “Sometimes there is the ability to try cases together if they share the same facts, but we haven’t made the decision on whether we would request that of the court.”