The desecration last year of prehistoric artwork at the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area sparked outrage and focused attention on the spread of graffiti throughout the Las Vegas Valley.
This week, the 17-year-old youth charged with defacing the Red Rock area received his punishment behind closed doors in federal court, ending a case that rallied the community to help remove the spray-painted graffiti.
U.S. District Judge Kent Dawson on Wednesday sentenced the unidentified youth to nine months behind bars, which he already has served. The judge also placed him on nine months of supervised release and ordered him to pay $23,775 in restitution to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
The defaced rock art panels on Aztec sandstone slabs and walls contain pictographs, painted symbols, the BLM estimates are 1,000 years old. One slab has a petroglyph, stone etching, that might be older.
BLM spokeswoman Kirsten Cannon said Thursday it cost roughly $24,000 to restore the ancient artwork. All of the money came from private donations.
John Hiatt, president of the Red Rock Audubon Society, which has closely followed the case, said he was pleased to hear about the sentencing.
"It's good that he's getting punished, so other people will see that they can't just damage archaeological resources with impunity," Hiatt said.
"The legal system is starting to recognize that these resources are irreplaceable and, without real protection, we will lose them forever."
In a news release, Natalie Collins, a spokeswoman for the Nevada U.S. attorney's office, said the youth pleaded guilty to two federal charges: unlawful defacement of archaeological resources and wilfully injuring or committing depredation against property of the United States.
The youth, whose identity has been withheld because he is under 18, committed the acts on July 24 and July 25 of last year.
"Public lands are for everyone's use," Cannon said. "It's disheartening when this happens."
Cannon said the publicity surrounding the crime helped the BLM create more awareness about graffiti in the 198,000-acre Red Rock area, most of which occurs in restrooms and on signs and trash cans.
"We've had more volunteers come out to remove graffiti," she said.
Initially, there was a spike in onlookers at the vandalized site, but that waned as the cleanup efforts began this spring, Cannon said.
Authorities think the defendant is a member of the NHC tagging crew, vandals who paint graffiti together around Southern Nevada.
NHC has several meanings, including Nasty Habits Crew.
The Red Rock graffiti was discovered by hikers in mid-November. It included the street names "PWE," "RODO" and "64C."
Las Vegas police arrested the youth in December, and he was later charged with the federal crimes.
Dawson on Wednesday imposed several special conditions on the youth during his nine-month supervised release, including barring him from entering any national parks, forests or recreational areas.
He also must undergo substance abuse treatment, participate in a life skills program and earn a general equivalency diploma. He cannot possess any firearms or explosives.
Contact Jeff German at email@example.com or 702-380-8135.