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No decision in Utah 'goblin toppling' case until after holidays, prosecutor says

Published December 12, 2013 10:41 am

Outdoors • Internet video shows man pushing over ancient rock formation Goblin Valley State Park.
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A decision regarding possible charges against two former Boy Scout leaders accused of toppling a rock formations at Goblin Valley State Park will not come until after the holidays.

Emery County Attorney David Blackwell announced Wednesday that he had received the complete file from the State Parks investigator handling the case.

But because the reports are "extensive" Blackwell does not anticipate reaching a decision until January, at the soonest.

The investigation began after David Hall and Glenn Taylor posted a video on the Internet of Taylor pushing over one of the park's ancient rock formations.

Taylor and Hall have insisted they toppled the rock formation on Oct. 11 out of concern that it would fall and hurt someone, with Hall pointing out that his uncle was killed by a falling boulder. The men, who were at the state park with the Boy Scouts, were later removed from their Scout leadership positions.

The report submitted to Blackwell took time because investigators — who included parks officials and engineers — struggled to assign a value to the damaged formation.

Meanwhile, outrage over the incident has prompted a Utah lawmaker to draft legislation promising stiff fines for those who dare vandalize the state's natural wonders.

Angry constituent calls started coming to Rep. Dixon Pitcher, R-Ogden, just days after Hall and Taylor posted their video. People wanted to know why the men weren't arrested and charged, Pitcher has said. So he called park authorities and was surprised to discover there is no law specifically addressing the men's actions.

"We don't really have anything on the books as far as state laws that deals with things as priceless as these geological formations, these antiquities, these really beautiful, irreplaceable wonders that we share here in Utah," Pitcher has said.

Utah State Parks Director Fred Hayes agreed, saying that while some laws exist to deal with vandalism, they're mostly geared to the destruction of human-made property. That makes it difficult to use those laws for incidents like the one shown in the video — which had more than 4.5 million views.

"Traditionally, the courts have always looked at what is the cost," Hayes said. "But there's no way to put a value on a goblin."

In response, Pitcher is in the process of drafting legislation that would penalize people who damage Utah's natural environments. The bill is still being written, but Pitcher says he hopes it makes actions like those of Hall and Taylor a felony. Pitcher also envisions a fine of up to $15,000 and jail time for future offenders.

Pitcher's bill was to be examined by legislative research attorneys. Afterward, the bill will move through the normal legislative process during the 2014 session. Pitcher has marked the proposed legislation as a priority bill and said that, while he anticipates tweaking and debate on specifics, he also expects it to pass into law.

"I'm looking to get it passed and signed by the governor," Pitcher said.

jdalrymple@sltrib.com