Charges in Goblin Valley ‘tipping’ case not expected until after holidays

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video taken by Dave Hall shows a Boy Scouts leader looking over an ancient Utah desert rock formation at Goblin Valley State Park, which he later knocked down. Authorities are mulling whether to press charges against and against the two men who cheered him on after they posted video of the incident online. AP photo by Dave Hall.
Video taken by Dave Hall shows a Boy Scouts leader looking over an ancient Utah desert rock formation at Goblin Valley State Park, which he later knocked down. Authorities are deciding whether to press charges against the leader and the two men who cheered him on after they posted video of the incident online. (AP photo by Dave Hall)

Emery County attorneys are waiting to decide whether or not to press charges against Glenn Taylor and David Hall, the two men accused of tipping over a nearly 200-million-year-old rock formation in Goblin Valley State Park.

The attorney’s office issued a press release Wednesday, Dec. 11, stating it does not expect to have a decision until January, at the earliest.

“The Emery County Attorney’s Office has now received the complete case file from the State Parks investigator handling this case,” the statement said. “The reports are extensive and the County Attorney’s Office does not anticipate reaching a decision in the matter until after the holidays.”

The two men received international attention in October after posting a YouTube video of themselves tipping over an ancient rock formation during an outing where they served as Boy Scout leaders.

“We have now modified Goblin Valley,” one of the men said in the video.

Taylor and Hall claimed that they performed the act out of concern for others’ safety, with Hall pointing out he had an uncle who was killed by a falling boulder.

The men, from Highland, Utah, faced immediate backlash and were removed from their positions and membership in the Boy Scouts of America. State officials have investigated the incident and submitted their report to the Emery County Attorney’s Office late last week.

David Blackwell, the county attorney, will now decide whether the men will face charges. The decision is complicated because there is currently no law to specifically address this type of vandalism, especially where it is hard to assess the value of the damage.

The incident and this gray area in the law have prompted the creation of a new bill. Representative Dixon Pitcher (R-Ogden) has drafted legislation that would make it a felony to modify or cause damage in Utah’s state parks and other natural resources.

“What the bill hopes to accomplish is to fill in some gaps that are present in the law that we have right now,” Pitcher said. “You can’t prosecute someone if you don’t have a statute that deals with it.”

Pitcher pointed out that Utah’s treasures are visited by people around the world and are worth protecting.

“This is really addressing things that cannot be repaired, things that cannot be put back to where they are,” Pitcher said.

While the text of the law has not been officially released, Pitcher has said before that it specifies consequences as severe as a $15,000 fine and jail time.

Pitcher says the bill has already received strong support and expects very little opposition as it is debated early in the 2014 legislative session.

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