Idaho men plead not guilty in pictograph case

Coeur D'Alene, Idaho (AP) January 2011

Two northern Idaho men who police say used spray paint to deface ancient tribal pictographs near Hells Gate State Park have pleaded not guilty to willful injury or depredation of property of the United States.

Twenty-two-year-old Tyler J. Carlson and 23-year-old Jerad Bovencamp made the pleas to the felony charges in U.S. District Court in Coeur d'Alene.

The Lewiston Tribune in a story published last week reports that a jury trial for both men is set for Feb. 22. Both have been released from custody.

A third man, 19-year-old Freddie M. Bernal, faces the same charge as Carlson and Bovencamp plus an additional charge of making false statements to federal investigators.

Court officials said that at a hearing last week in U.S. District Court in Coeur d'Alene he was ordered detained. Prosecutors, according to court documents, argued Bernal is a flight risk and poses a danger to others. Another hearing is set for Jan. 3.

Experts say the defaced rock art showing geometric shapes and animal figures is at least 2,500 years old. The rock art is on land that's part of a traditional Nez Perce site now managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The graffiti at the Red Elk Rock Shelter includes references to marijuana, with the words “Vote to Toke,” and a pot leaf with “Ganga” written below. There are also peace signs, the initials T.C., and the names Freddy B and “Kotton Mouth Kings,” a marijuana-themed rap band.

Each of the men if convicted face a fine of up to $250,000 and up to 10 years in prison. Damaging pictographs violates the federal Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979.