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Utah ‘goblin topplers’ sentenced to probation
Sentence » The two men pleaded guilty to knocking over an ancient rock formation.


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"Mr. Taylor was a long-time Scout leader who loved the boys, loved the Scout program," Card said. "He recognizes his guilt, recognizes what he did wrong, and he hopes that a message can be sent to others through his mistake that this isn’t what you do."

The toppling of the goblin sparked international outrage, invited death threats and prompted Rep. Dixon Pitcher, R-Ogden, to sponsor an unsuccessful bill that would have targeted individuals who damage, deface, evacuate, alter, destroy or remove features, formations, sites or geological areas owned by the Utah Division of Parks and Recreation.

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The bill would have provided a method of calculating the "value of a division resource" and made causing damage exceeding $1,500 a third-degree felony. But some lawmakers said existing vandalism statutes were sufficient, and a House panel killed the measure in February.

Before charges were filed against Hall and Taylor, Utah State Park investigators wrestled with what value to put on the wrecked rock formation so prosecutors could determine an appropriate level of punishment.

"We looked at every potential scenario for determining what it was worth," said Utah State Parks Director Fred Hayes. "We talked to engineers. We talked to geological consultants."

The value that was determined for the toppled goblin, or at least the value of putting the rock or something like it back in Goblin Valley State Park, has not been publicly released.

The rock will not be replaced due to the liability of a human-made formation, but Utah State Park investigators studied the possibility of reconstructing the hoodoo out of concrete or fiberglass.

Due to the hoodoo’s size, a helicopter or crane would have been needed to place the goblin back on its pedestal.

"These were the options we came up with. It’s not like you can go buy a goblin on eBay," Hayes said. "The miserable part of natural-feature vandalism is that it is virtually impossible to put a real monetary value on it."

Aside from noting the absence of an order for Taylor and Hall to perform community service, Hayes said he was not surprised with the plea deal.


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"These are not career criminals. They did something stupid," he said. "They can end up with essentially a clean criminal record. That’s the way our system is designed: to let the judge determine what is fair."

Utah State Parks will continue to work with Emery County to come up with a restitution value as ordered by the court, Hayes said.

Jay Christianson, president of Friends of Utah State Parks, said with no specific laws on the books addressing what to do in cases like these, it’s not surprising that the men did not receive harsher punishment.

"You hope it doesn’t ever happen again, but there needs to be something done to set a precedent that this is not acceptable," he said. "Just paying a fine is an easy way out. There needs to be more of a penalty. There needs to be corrective action. Doing community service, people learn there is a penalty for doing something stupid.

But Deputy Emery County Attorney Brent Langston believes that is the message Utah has sent in its treatment of Hall and Taylor.

"I believe justice was done," Langston said after the hearing. "No body would argue that this wasn’t stupid, but I don’t think they’ll do anything like that again. And I hope others — seeing what happened here — would also think twice."

Absent an order from the court, Taylor and Hall may continue to visit the state’s parks.

Card said his client and Hall offered to perform community service inside Goblin Valley or other state parks — trail clean-up work for example — but state officials declined their offer.

"They offered to participate in a service project of the state’s choosing," Card said. "These are some good men who made a mistake. They feel bad. They want to make up for it."

mlang@sltrib.com

brettp@sltrib.com



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