MILWAUKEE – In the film “Wedding Crashers,” a scatological prank involving a few drops of Visine in an unwitting man’s drink is played for comedic effect, but five Whitnall High School students nearly killed a classmate by imitating it at school in June.

Tuesday, they found themselves apologizing to a judge and pleading – successfully -leniency, including the opportunities to avoid jail time and have their misdemeanor convictions expunged.

“Basically, it was a prank that went wrong, and nobody intended for any real harm to come to anybody,” said Andrew Ryback, 17, who had brought the Visine to school June 2 to help with his own allergies.

That day, he and friends had recalled how the “Wedding Crashers” Visine gag led to sudden digestive distress and decided to see if it would play out like that in real life.

Ryback said he surreptitiously poured “like a quarter of the bottle” of eye drops into the classmate’s water while the other four friends at the same lunch table observed. He was singled out by Circuit Judge Charles F. Kahn Jr. to serve 25 days on house arrest and two years on probation.

The other four students involved – Timothy E. Hertel, 17; Anton J. Lak, 18; Andrew J. Michaels, 18; and Scott T. Miller, 17 – each got 18 months on probation and 60 hours of community service. All five had pleaded no contest to misdemeanor counts of battery and disorderly conduct after initially being charged with felony counts of placing foreign objects in edibles, and each faces up to a year in the county House of Correction if they violate conditions of the probation.

“We all intended a little stupid joke, but we never intended to send him to the hospital,” said Michaels, who noted that he is supposed to set a better example as the only senior on Whitnall’s basketball team.

According to the criminal complaint filed in the case, they were contemplating possible victims when one classmate sitting nearby had gotten up to go get a cookie, leaving his bottle of Propel Fitness Water untended. It was passed across the table to Ryback. The other boy then got back and was goaded into a chugging contest.

Two classes later, he was woozy and headed for the school’s health room when someone tipped him off that Visine had been planted in his drink.

He was sent to Children’s Hospital, where it would take several days and intensive-care treatment for him to recover from poisoning reactions that included dangerously low heart rate and blood pressure.

A doctor said the student could have died if he hadn’t gotten medical treatment, and his mother told a prosecutor that the boy had required a defibrillator while at the hospital. He didn’t attend Tuesday’s hearing.

Assistant District Attorney Megan Carmody told Kahn the boy suffered no residual effects and didn’t hold a grudge against the five who had a hand in poisoning him.

“He told me “Wedding Crashers’ was actually one of his favorite movies,” Carmody said. “He thought it was funny (while watching it). He said, “I never expected anything like this to happen to me.”‘

None of the five students charged in the case had a prior criminal record, and their attorneys told Kahn their records of community service and solid classwork, as well as their college plans, meant expunction of their convictions would help their life prospects dramatically. Each had also already served a three-day suspension from school.

“This is a prank that just, obviously, went much awry,” said D. Michael Guerin, attorney for Miller.

Kahn agreed and said each would be eligible to wipe his record clean if probation is completed successfully. The five young men walked back to their family members in the courthouse gallery and quietly walked down the hall into a probation office to fill out paperwork.

“If you could turn back time, you would,” said James Ryback, Andrew’s grandfather and a longtime detective with the West Allis Police Department.


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