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Va. students charged with felonies for snowball throwing

Harrisonburg police say throwing snowballs at occupied vehicles isn't a harmless prank.

Two James Madison University students learned that lesson the hard way. Each faces a felony charge for throwing snowballs at a city snowplow and an unmarked police car.

Harrisonburg Police Department spokeswoman Mary-Hope Vass says both 21-year-old students were charged Saturday with throwing missiles at occupied vehicles.

Vass says any object thrown at a vehicle can result in the felony charge.

-- Daily News-Record

By Washington Post Editors  |  February 9, 2010; 11:49 AM ET
Categories:  Virginia  
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Comments

Good for the police!!! Too bad DC metro cops don't enforce that law in the District....

Posted by: WildBill1 | February 9, 2010 12:00 PM | Report abuse

And I thought only the Brits are stiff pricks...

Posted by: Rawuzi | February 9, 2010 12:14 PM | Report abuse

This is what should have happend back in December at 14th and U. For some reason, a lot of people with an overblown sense of entitlement (i.e. Yuppies)think it is OK to throw snow balls and ice at people and cars just because they think it's fun. Then they get upset when an officer pulls out his gun after getting beaned in the face with an ice ball.

Posted by: PepperDr | February 9, 2010 12:18 PM | Report abuse

This is what should have happend back in December at 14th and U. For some reason, a lot of people with an overblown sense of entitlement (i.e. Yuppies)think it is OK to throw snow balls and ice at people and cars just because they think it's fun. Then they get upset when an officer pulls out his gun after getting beaned in the face with an ice ball.

Posted by: PepperDr | February 9, 2010 12:18 PM

*******************************************

I could not have said this better myself. Thank you!!

Posted by: gitouttahere | February 9, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

WOW you people need to lighten up!

"...a lot of people with an overblown sense of entitlement" (i.e. people who drive cars in a blizzard when they have no business being on the road) should get over it.

I DID get beaned the face with an ice ball over the weekend and I DIDN'T pull a gun - I just fired a snowball back.

Posted by: kasdc | February 9, 2010 12:48 PM | Report abuse

I agree with rockettonu. If they did not cause an accident or injure anyone, then fine them each $100 and expunge their misdeameanor convictions after a year if they stay out of trouble. That way, they learn a lesson about behaving responsibly towards others, without having their lives ruined.

Posted by: lydgate | February 9, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse

I agree with lydgate. Good lesson learned.

Posted by: johngeyewitnessmailcom | February 9, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

A felony? Really? Probably some small testicle cop on a powertrip got pegged in his cruiser. And everyone knows that the snow plow is fair game. Snow day, anyone? I guess not in Harrisonburg.

Posted by: 123cartoon | February 9, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse

I can't believe that someone could accuse the people at the snowball fight in December of having a "feeling of entitlement" and then in the same breath whine that they need police protection from snowballs. Which one is it guys? 'Cause it doesn't make sense to say both. The snow we got both times was very soft & fluffy. Even getting hit at point blank range in the face with one compacted snowball would do next to nothing, aside from MAYBE giving you a redder face. You would have to heat the snow to completely melt it, and then wait for it to freeze again to even have a chance to do any damage. Even then it is doubtful what you made would do anything but shatter. But at that point what you've got is no longer a snowball, which was the only thing people were throwing at the U Street fight, and probably these guys too.

If you're really that afraid of snow maybe you should move to southern Florida. Alternatively you could lighten up a little bit and rejoin the human race. Just because you have no sense of humor and/or have some difficult personal problems you're dealing with, don't direct your rage in such a ridiculous way at innocent people. It's not healthy.

Posted by: icemachine79 | February 9, 2010 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Why does everything have to be so black and white for everybody? I see gray on this issue.

It is one thing to playfully throw a snowball at a car and another thing altogether if it is done with malice. As I wasn't there for the JMU incident and there isn't much information added to the context of the situation I'll just assume there was more going on than a simple snowball being thrown at a car.

Posted by: BigBubba1 | February 9, 2010 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Virginia don't play.

Hey, felony conviction for throwing a snowball at an occupied vehicle is getting off light when you can be summarily executed for maybe stealing some flowers or driving your friend who shorted a check at an I-Hop (without your knowledge) out of the parking lot or getting your groceries out of your trunk when the cops think you *might* be a bookie.

Those five year olds up the street who were throwing snowballs and hitting passing cars are lucky none of us called the cops on them. You know, classic "entitlement mentality."

Posted by: elizestrada | February 9, 2010 2:24 PM | Report abuse

If you are throwing snowballs, at unwilling pedestrians and automobiles, you deserve to get your assbeat within 3 inches of your life.

Posted by: dashriprock | February 9, 2010 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Kids ought not be throwing snowballs, but charging them with a FELONY? Gimme a break. Kids shoot each other, carry guns into school, steal, rob, burgle every house in sight in DC and don't get a felony charge.

When we used to snow-ball or egg cars in motion, we ALWAYS had an escape route. These kids are guilty of faulty planning, nothing more. If the snowballs had an unintended effect, a crash, whatever, that'd be one thing. But a felony for throwing a "missile"?

Were that Iran and North Korea could chalk up a felony for throwing missiles.

Posted by: JamesChristian | February 9, 2010 4:11 PM | Report abuse

I'm not sure what we British have done to deserve Rawuzi's comment, but congratulations on getting a gratuitous insult and foul language into a nine-word non-sentence beginning with a conjunction. Good luck with getting into the third grade next year!

Posted by: tunbridgewells | February 9, 2010 4:16 PM | Report abuse

Am I reading this right...."both 21-year-old students were charged Saturday with throwing missiles at occupied vehicles"

I guess Cuba had snowballs pointed at the US during the crisis.

Posted by: jasoncorp | February 9, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

For clarification: Virginia's law says that it is a felony to throw a "missle" (I'm pretty sure that's the word used in the law) at an occupied vehicle. The reason behind the law is that the object--whatever it is--either could break a window, injuring the occupants or startling the driver into an accident, or could hit the windshield, obscuring the driver's vision and causing an accident.

I'm not taking sides. I certainly hate for two college students to have felony charges on their record for what seemed like an innocent prank. But if those snowballs had caused a driver to lose control of the vehicle and plow into a 5-year-old building a snowman in his yard, it might not seem so innocent.

Posted by: highschoolteacher | February 9, 2010 4:51 PM | Report abuse

Throwing anything at any MOVING vehicle is a felony. It can cause the driver to lose control. But a stopped vehicle doesn't have the same danger.

Posted by: blasmaic | February 9, 2010 5:17 PM | Report abuse

It's ridiculous things like CONVICTING people of felonies for throwing snowballs that lessens respect for the law, for police, and ultimately lead to situations that get cops killed. Thankfully there is a big difference between being charged and being convicted. I have no doubt that ultimately the charges will be reduced to a summery charge and dealt with by fine.

Posted by: nashvillemykl | February 9, 2010 5:30 PM | Report abuse

Ok, lets use some sense here, people in cars are not in danger from snowballs. Felony charges are too much here. We are going to ruin these kids opportunities for life here. what lesson is learned by that? We have to be careful not to spend the big penalties on the small incidents. Felony convictions carry jail time, so we are going to send them to jail for this? make them drop out of school, engage their school loans, make them fail the classes they are in because profs will not make exceptions for the courts nor should they under most conditions. If they hurt somebody then yes, but this is overboard.

Posted by: jason33 | February 9, 2010 5:31 PM | Report abuse

Seems seriously overblown. And as for the DC incident--the news reported that the officer was in his car. Besides- a snowball and a bullet are two considerably different things.

Posted by: 39aka94 | February 9, 2010 5:33 PM | Report abuse

Snowball felons? What a way to ruin your life...a felon in prison for a year for snowball throwing..something every northern kid does when growing up and you want to equate it with...assault, burglary, arson, kidnapping, murder, drug dealing, rape? These are all felonies and these cops want to ruin these kids lives for tossing a snowball? What a joke. Thank God I live where tossing a snowball is still not a felony. Felons can't vote, run for office, own a gun, and can't get many jobs...would you want your little girl to marry a snowball felon or a drunken wife beater?

Posted by: MikeFromMinnesota | February 9, 2010 5:59 PM | Report abuse

I think most of the people posting here don't understand : It's against the law in MD, VA, and DC to throw something at an occupied vehicle. Period. The law doesn't make a value call between a rock and a snowball.
There was an incident on interstate 95 in Virgina where a driver became enraged at another car and throw a beer can at the car. He was arrested. He faced a charge of DWI (for drinking the beer) and another one for throwing the beer can at another car.

Posted by: Jimof1913 | February 9, 2010 6:00 PM | Report abuse

Let me repeat before I go on: I would hate for two college kids to have felonies on their records for snowball throwing.

That said, I don't understand the "if they hurt somebody, it would be different" mentality. Say person A throws a snowball at a vehicle moving down a residential street and hits the vehicle's windshield; through good fortune, he hits the car of an experienced driver, who manages not to crash even though his view is obstructed. Next, person B--who is standing behind the bushes beside person A, waiting his turn--throws a snowball at a similar car and also hits the windshield, but this driver over-reacts, swerves off the road, and hits a utility pole, dying instantly. What did B do that A didn't? How is one an innocent prank and the other a terrible crime?

Posted by: highschoolteacher | February 9, 2010 6:19 PM | Report abuse

There is no need for the police in VA to pull a gun on snow ball throwers because there is a law on the books that allow them to arrest them. The pregnant lady that threw her cup of McDonald's soda at the motorist that cut her off in rush hour traffic had to go to jail. She got off lighter because she was pregnant and the law was new. That news was on TV a lot, and everybody had an opinion. A few years later, no one can say they didn't hear about it and 21 year olds are adults so they need to learn adult lessons.

Stop throwing snowballs at people...especially police officers. It's not mature and it's time for them to grow up or go to the playground and play there. The city streets are made for driving and sidewalks for walking. There are more than enough playgrounds for playing. They will definitely mess around and throw snowballs at the wrong person and incite a riot...there are real charges for that and the lame excuse that "I was just playing" is not going to help the person that really ends up getting hurt.

Posted by: Carole5520 | February 9, 2010 6:48 PM | Report abuse

Excuse me. I saw nothing in the story to suggest that the cops warned the kids one time before arresting them. This is the type of "attitude" that there is entirely too much of in law enforcement. I hope these cops use a bit more discretion when a more serious crime occurs. Those on this blog who don't think you could become a victim of this type of overreaction at some point are deluding yourselves.

Posted by: tradeczar | February 9, 2010 7:15 PM | Report abuse


The whiners complaining about snowballs should channel their snowball phobias into building up their arm strength so they can throw back. Throwing snowballs is quite fun and harmless but I can understand your fear of them if you really can't throw.

Posted by: mwalsh3a | February 9, 2010 7:24 PM | Report abuse

Snwoball fights should be small affairs between people who agree to participate. Snowballs can cause serious eye injury. What may look like a fluffy thing may be a mass with ice, with an impact much like a rock. The snowball fight in the intersection in DC that spurred the off-duty officer to pull a gun...in the midwest, I bet a lot of the particpants would have been hauled off to jail. I was deeply disturbed at the one-sided way that incident was covered and handled. If I had been walking or riding through that intersection, I would have feared injury.

Posted by: catbird500 | February 10, 2010 10:10 AM | Report abuse

Although I don't agree with the felony charges, those guys were not thinking maturely; and yes throwing snowballs at moving vehicles is NOT fun for the driver and can be dangerous not only to the intended car but to other vehicles and/or pedestrians. If a person is shot by accident, is that person still dead. The shooter didn't mean it! What if it was you or someone you love!

For the whiner that stated no one should should be out in a snow storm, you don't know what reason that person was out for, maybe it's his job to be out or maybe an urgent issue, which does not give anyone the right to judge them or throw things at them.

There are lots of fun to be had and places to do it, just not at the expense of others!

Posted by: bemills65 | February 10, 2010 10:47 AM | Report abuse

this is ridiculous. there were 50 people out there throwing snowballs when the cops came and arrested just 2 of the boys. no way should they be charged with felonies. it was all in fun and no one ever thought that people could be charged with a felony for this. i was a driver that drove by that day and for the boys to be charged with felonies for throwing missiles is ridiculous. it was snowballs and they were not being pelted like missiles at all. i sure hope these boys are not given a felony cause it would ruin their lives when they were doing something all in fun. yes, maybe it was stupid. but i do not believe that they should be put in jail for 5 years because that is what a class 6 felony can do to them.

Posted by: reader54 | February 10, 2010 4:43 PM | Report abuse

The cops need to grow up. As for the 14th and U incident, the rogue cop who pulled a gun was not hit in the face with anything. He's the one who should have been hauled off to jail.

Posted by: DCLawyer1 | February 16, 2010 3:21 PM | Report abuse

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