5 arrested for cheering at graduation request jury trial

Five of the six people arrested at Fort Mill High School's graduation ceremony have requested a jury trial.

And the attorney representing the five, Harry Collins of Rock Hill, said Thursday he plans to file a motion to dismiss the charges before the cases reach a courtroom.

“These people are innocent,” Collins said.

Matthew Jones Sterling, 21, of Fort Mill, S.C.; Jamie Ellen Hill, 24, of Knoxville, Tenn.; Nathaniel Hill, 21, of Tega Cay, S.C.; Robert Anthony Massey, 42, of Clover, S.C.; and William Eric Anthony Massey, 19, of Fort Mill will be tried by a jury, Collins and the Clerk of Court Office confirmed Thursday. A date has not been set.

The suspects, among eight individuals arrested at area graduation ceremonies, are charged with public disorderly conduct after police say they cheered during the presentation of diplomas.

All graduation attendees were warned that outbursts during the ceremony were strictly prohibited. A designated time for cheering was provided at the end of each ceremony.

In each case, the people cheered for a graduate and were then placed into custody by local law enforcement, working security at the event at the request of school officials.

Matthew Jones also is charged with resisting police after he tried to pull away from an officer handcuffing him, according to police reports.

Collins said he believes the charges against his clients should be dropped because their actions do not fall under the public disorderly conduct statute. He said the disorderly conduct law applies to people using foul language, being grossly intoxicated in public or exhibiting obscene behavior.

“It doesn't encompass making a cheer or saying ‘Hurrah' once or twice,” Collins said. “If they did anything wrong, it was violating a school policy. ... They didn't break any laws.”

The other person arrested at Fort Mill's ceremony, Joseph Anthony Reiriz, 21, of Fort Mill, will appear before a judge in Rock Hill municipal court June 24. It is not known if he will enter a plea or request a jury trial.

Jonathan Kennan Orr, 21, of McConnells, S.C., arrested and charged with disorderly conduct at York Comprehensive High School's commencement, will appear in municipal court June 27, according to the clerk of court.

Perry Allen Brandon, 37, of Rock Hill, cited for disorderly conduct at Northwestern High's ceremony, said his court date is July 31.