Lewiston Man Convicted of Defacing Red Elk Rock Shelter
Two Others Plead Guilty
COEUR D'ALENE – Freddie Michael Bernal, 20, of Lewiston, Idaho, was convicted by a federal jury in Coeur d'Alene yesterday of willful injury or depredation of property of the United States and making a false statement to the FBI, U.S. Attorney Wendy J. Olson announced. In December 2010, Bernal and two others were indicted by a federal grand jury for defacing the cliff face at the Red Elk Rock Shelter, a site located south of Lewiston's Hells Gate State Park. The basalt wall has red pigmented pictographs, or rock art, including animal figures and geometric shapes that may date as far back as 2,500 years. Bernal was the only defendant charged with making a false statement to the FBI.
During the two-day trial, the jury heard evidence that on February 7, 2010, Bernal and codefendants Tyler James Carlson, 23, and Jerad Bovencamp, 24, also of Lewiston, hiked to the site, which is located within the area traditionally occupied by the ancestors of the Nez Perce Indian Tribe, and used spray paint to deface the rock face of the shelter. By their actions, the defendants caused approximately $150,000 damage. Repairs to the shelter will require the services of a rock art conservator using chemicals and lasers.
Carlson and Bovencamp, entered guilty pleas on Monday in United States District Court in Coeur d'Alene to one count of willful injury or depredation of property of the United States. The charge is punishable by up to ten years in prison, a maximum fine of $250,000, and up to three years of supervised release. The charge of making a false statement to the FBI is punishable by up to five years in prison, a maximum fine of $250,000, and up to three years of supervised release.
Bernal, Carlson and Tyler are set for sentencing on January 3, 2012, before U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge at the federal courthouse in Coeur d'Alene.
“These defendants' acts of vandalism irreparably harmed cultural artifacts, causing thousands of dollars of damage,” said Olson. “While attempts will be made to restore the pictographs, they will never be the pristine emblem of tribal history that they were before these senseless acts.”
The Executive Council of the Nez Perce Tribe released the following statement: “The Nez Perce Tribe has learned that two of the three individuals charged with destroying property under the stewardship of the United States by spray painting over the pictographs on the rock face at the Red Elk Rock Shelter have pled guilty, and the third convicted by a federal jury. The irreversible damage done to the site is a loss for everyone. The Tribe is pleased with the outcome and appreciates the United States taking affirmative action under federal law in response to the damage done to the Nez Perce pictographs on the rock face, as those pictographs and the location itself has immeasurable cultural and historical value. The importance of protecting and preserving such sites cannot be overstated, and such vandalism should not be tolerated.”
The case was investigated by the Nez Perce County Sheriff's Office, the Nez Perce Tribal Police, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the State of Idaho Parks Department, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
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