Man who disabled York City Hall 'at its core' enters Wellness Court, spent 9½ months in jail

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch

A Philadelphia man who broke into York City Hall and destroyed the city's computer services, flooded a portion of the building and destroyed other items has been accepted into mental-health Wellness Court.

Kevin Isaiah Waller, 25, is a college graduate who had a good job working for Philadelphia's regional public transportation authority before his struggles with mental-health issues led him to badly vandalize City Hall, defense attorney Heather Reiner said.

He has no prior criminal record, she said.

Waller appeared in York County Court on Friday, where he pleaded no contest rather than guilty to felony charges of burglary and criminal mischief, as well as to a misdemeanor-graded count of criminal mischief, court records state.

Memory issues required him to plead no contest, according to Reiner. A no-contest plea has the same effect as a guilty plea.

Damage at York City Hall.

"I put on the record (in court) that because he was not taking his medication at the time, he's not able to recall what happened," the attorney said, but noted Waller is taking responsibility for his actions — he simply doesn't have a clear memory of what he did.

Waller spent about 9½ months in York County Prison awaiting resolution of his case and was released May 17 after he was accepted into Wellness Court, Reiner said.

About wellness courts: York County has wellness courts for criminal defendants who are military veterans, have substance-abuse and mental-health issues, and for those arrested for driving while intoxicated. Such diversionary courts are designed to address the underlying causes behind why defendants offend and to save taxpayers money by keeping offenders out of prison and rehabilitating them so they don't commit more crimes.

Defendants who fail to complete their wellness court requirements are generally removed from the program, meaning they once again face the original charges against them.

York City's total damage was listed in court as $325,441, and Waller was ordered to pay the city $25,861, Reiner said.

On Friday, York City Business Administrator Tom Ray said apparently not all damage costs were submitted to the court for reimbursement, and said city officials could consider asking the court to revisit Waller's amount of restitution.

$415K in damages: The total for all the damage caused to York City's building and infrastructure was $414,838.67, Ray said.

"We were reimbursed by the city's insurance carrier for $289,679.82, leaving a total out-of-pocket expense of $125,158.85," he said.

Ray said it appears the city forgot to submit to the court the costs to replace the front doors and postage machine that Waller destroyed.

It took about nine months until York City was fully operational again, he said.

"This was a very unfortunate situation for the city, and it also stopped and made us think," Ray said.

In addition to government agencies' and businesses' fears about cybersecurity and ransomware, they should also be concerned about physical attacks on their computer and IT infrastructures, he suggested.

"I think we've proved that it can be devastating," Ray said.

Waller was ordered by presiding Common Pleas President Judge Maria Musti Cook to comply with mental-health treatment directives, including taking prescribed medications, Reiner confirmed.

A damaged door is shown at City Hall in York City, Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020. The door was broken late Wednesday when a suspect broke into City Hall, doing damage throughout the building, including a physical attack on IT servers. Dawn J. Sagert photo

"If he successfully completes the program and pays costs and restitution in full, the felonies will be reduced to misdemeanors," she said. "He’s looking for a job now."

Waller will live in York County to complete his court requirements, she said. He had a girlfriend here, which was what brought him to the county in the first place, according to Reiner.

"I think he is very remorseful," she said. "It's really unfortunate."

Disabled 'at its core': The Aug. 5, 2020, burglary disabled City Hall "at its core," York Mayor Michael Helfrich's chief of staff, Philip Given, has said.

Waller was arrested at 9:12 p.m. Aug. 5 in the basement of the 101 S. George St. City Hall after an alert tipster called 911 to say she'd seen a shirtless man with a face covering use a fire extinguisher to break into the building, court documents state.

Officers found the shirtless Waller in the basement, holding the extinguisher and several laptop computer bags, according to documents.

Kevin Isaiah Waller

Phone and computer services were ruined, affecting everything from tax and ticket payments to large-item pickup information. The phone system at York City Police headquarters, 50 W. King St., also was affected.

"We essentially had to start from scratch" to rebuild one service at a time, Given has said.

In addition to smashing things and flooding City Hall with water, Waller also poured chemicals on items inside, police have said.

Waller's second no-contest plea for burglary was for a second break-in, which happened just before the City Hall incident. In that break-in, Waller stole a fire extinguisher and caused more than $2,200 in damages to 128 S. George St., court documents state.

Also Friday, Waller pleaded no contest to defiant trespass for an incident at his now-former girlfriend's Manchester borough home.

— Reach senior crime reporter Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.