Two Rice students had everything going for them -- until their pranks progressed into hard-core crime

"I'm glad we got caught," said Padua. "Luckily it was early enough that we don't continue, like into our jobs." The worst part was the shame they brought on their families, the two said. They've both been expelled from Rice, and Padua has enrolled at the University of Houston. Their companion, Rice grad Christian "Ash" Martinez, faces a separate charge for allegedly helping them in the foiled September 18 burglary.

The biggest challenge for Byer and Padua now will be trying to avoid jail -- convictions carry up to two-year sentences. They were turned down in an effort to get pretrial diversion, which would have taken away the criminal charge if they performed community service and stayed out of trouble. The next hearing in the case is scheduled for December 27.

Hassell says he believes the defendants shouldn't get probation.

Byer (left) and Padua now are fighting to stay out of jail.
Harris County Sheriff's Dept.
Byer (left) and Padua now are fighting to stay out of jail.

"I'm not a hardnose," said Hassell, "but I'd fight against anything short of jail time. They were Rice students and had a great future, but that doesn't give them an excuse. These guys are thieves."

University police have stepped up crime prevention programs on campus but say it would be impractical to add restrictions to building access. "If you have a research institution, then that's the way it has to be," said Rice Sergeant Jim Baylor. "For every security measure, there's a lack of freedom."

Meanwhile, Hassell hopes for the return of more stolen property that he believes is still out there. He's sure there are students who know where some of it is -- but who are keeping silent. That's one of the most disheartening aspects of the case, he said. "Quite frankly, I wish the student body had given more credence to the honor code instead of mouthing the words."

Byer told of only a few companions who questioned the thefts. "I had one or two friends who said, 'Scott, it's your one bad flaw.'"

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