Utah files felony charge against ‘goblin topplers’
By Jessica Miller
and Brett Prettyman
The Salt Lake TribuneFirst published Jan 31 2014 02:44PM
The so-called goblin topplers — David Hall and Glenn Taylor — were charged with third-degree felonies Friday for pushing over a rock formation in Goblin Valley State Park in October.
Taylor, who is accused of physically pushing over the hoodoo, was charged Friday in Castle Dale’s 7th District Court with third-degree felony criminal mischief. Hall, accused of videotaping the incident, was charged with conspiracy criminal mischief, also a third-degree felony.
If convicted, the men could face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
According to court records, the men are accused of causing more than $1,500 but less than $5,000 in damage when they pushed over the ancient rock formation Oct. 11 — an incident they posted a video of on the Internet.
"We had to look at the value from an ‘as if we are trying to construct it’ standpoint. Clearly we can’t reconstruct it, but it was the only way we had to put some value on it," said Utah State Parks Director Fred Hayes, who stated he was not aware of the final monetary value placed on the destroyed hoodoo. "Whether that was right or not, we don’t know, but we had to come up with something."
Hayes pointed out that a bill addressing this kind of vandalism is scheduled to be discussed next week at the Utah Legislature.
Angry constituent calls started coming to Rep. Dixon Pitcher, R-Ogden, just days after Hall and Taylor posted their video. People wanted to know why the men weren’t arrested and charged, Pitcher has said. So he called park authorities and was surprised to discover there is no law specifically addressing the men’s actions.
Pitcher is now sponsoring a bill, which might make it easier to determine the value of natural features such as hoodoos.
HB68, Protection of State Park Resources, was written to prevent individuals from damaging, defacing, evacuating, altering, destroying or removing features, formations, sites or geological areas owned by the Utah Division of Parks and Recreation.
The bill also would provide a method of calculating the "value of a division resource."
The video, which has been viewed more than 4.6 million times, shows Taylor pushing over a rock formation to cheers of videographer Hall and other men in the area.
"We have a new modified Goblin Valley," Hall says into the camera as cheers are heard in the background. "A new Goblin Valley exists with this boulder down here on the bottom."
Taylor, 45, and Hall, 42, have insisted they toppled the rock formation out of concern that it would fall and hurt someone, with Hall pointing out that his uncle was killed by a falling boulder. The men, who were at the state park with the Boy Scouts of America, were later removed from their Scout leadership positions.
Neither man was available for comment Friday.
Their initial appearance in the case is scheduled for March 18.