Idaho men sentenced for defacing tribal pictographs
BOISE, Idaho (AP) – Two Lewiston men have been ordered to spend time in a federal prison for defacing ancient Native American pictographs at a shelter near Hell’s Gate State Park.
U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge sentenced Michael Bernal, 21, and Tyler Carlson, 23, on Wednesday for their roles in spray-painting a rock wall at the Red Elk Rock Shelter last February. The shelter’s red pigmented tribal drawings are believed to be 2,500 years old and in a region traditionally occupied by ancestors of the Nez Perce tribe.
Bernal and Carlson were convicted of willful injury or depredation of federal property. Bernal was also convicted for making false statements to federal investigators.
Prosecutors say Bernal, Carlson and a third defendant, Jerad Bovencamp, hiked to the shelter and used cans of spray paint to deface rock art drawings depicting animal figures and geometric shapes. U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson said the vandalism caused about $100,000 worth of damage and restoration will require the expertise of a rock art conservator.
Bernal was sentenced to 36 months in prison, while Carlson will serve four months in prison. They were each ordered to pay more than $33,000 in restitution to cover damages.
Bovencamp, 24, also of Lewiston, was convicted of similar charges and is scheduled to be sentenced in June.
The conclusion of the court case and penalties won praise from tribal members.
“The Nez Perce Tribe is pleased with the outcome,” tribal officials said in statement. “The pictographs and the location itself has immeasurable cultural and historic value. The importance of protecting and preserving such sites cannot be overstated, and such vandalism should not be tolerated.”
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