A check received by Penn State in November has set the record for the largest criminal restitution payment ever processed in the state.
Thomas J. Young, director of the Centre County Probation and Parole Department, delivered a check for $777,833 to the university Nov. 19, the largest restitution payment processed by the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts. The previous largest amount in the state was $565,133 and the largest previous restitution payment in Centre County was $151,161, Young said.
The payment originated in a case from March 2005, when someone set fire to the School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture building on campus. Significant damage was done to the building, which was under construction at the time.
Penn State police arrested Craig Tonik, then 18, for the fire and other acts of vandalism on campus in April 2005.
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He eventually faced six different criminal cases and pleaded guilty in three of those cases to charges of institutional vandalism. He was sentenced to two to five years in state prison and ordered to pay $950,000 to Penn State for the losses incurred.
He was paroled in 2007 and entered a payment contract with Centre County Probation and Parole to begin making restitution payments. Tonik was only able to make sporadic restitution payments — a total of $2,200 since 2007, Young said.
In 2008, Tonik’s father, Robert Tonik, was killed while working at the Philadelphia Industrial Correctional Center. His estate filed a civil lawsuit and a settlement was reached in 2012. Centre County Probation and Parole contacted the Philadelphia court that handled the case and the amount received by Tonik was held in escrow until a resolution was reached regarding the restitution.
Bruce Manchester, Tonik’s local attorney, said a hearing was held between the parties involved and Penn State agreed to reduce the amount originally sought for damages by about $225,000 in exchange for the money held in escrow.
Tonik, who now lives out of state, agreed not to contest the release of the money to the Centre County Probation and Parole Department.
The entire share received by Tonik from the civil lawsuit was paid to Penn State and Centre County, Manchester said. About $2,000 was paid to Centre County for other fines, costs and fees.
The check was delivered to Gary Langsdale, the university’s risk management officer. Langsdale said the money would be used to pay back the insurance company that initially reimbursed the university for the damages caused by Tonik and to recover the deductible paid by Penn State.
Although the circumstances that ultimately enabled the resolution of the case are tragic, Young said, Tonik deserves recognition for settling the debt.
“I give credit to Mr. Tonik,” he said. “He never denied he owed the money to Penn State.”