Ex-scout leaders face criminal charges for boulder-pushing incident

Alleged Goblin Valley vandal image from YouTube video from Salt Lake Tribune

Alleged Goblin Valley vandal image from YouTube video from Salt Lake Tribune

(CNN) — It just took a little push to topple the delicately perched boulder — millions of years in the making — in Utah’s Goblin Valley State Park. Then the man who did it laughed, high-fived his son, and flexed his muscles while being cheered on by a fellow Boy Scout leader.

He is not likely celebrating now, nor is his friend who videotaped then publicized the episode, after both were charged Friday with third-degree felonies.

Glenn Taylor, who pushed over the rock, and the cameraman, David Hall, face charges of criminal mischief and are accused of intentionally damaging, defacing and destroying property, according to the charging document.

Neither man could be reached by CNN on Friday for comment on the charges.

But both have previously defended their actions in interviews with CNN affiliate KUTV, saying they had done a good thing by pushing over a precarious rock that could have otherwise fallen on a passer-by.

“That wasn’t going to last very long at all,” Hall has said, saying then he would “absolutely” support doing it again. “One gust of wind and a family’s dead.”

‘We have now modified Goblin Valley’

The men likely wouldn’t have been charged if not for the Internet — specifically, the video Hall shot inside the sparse state park and posted to YouTube, then linked up on Facebook.

In it, Taylor is seen behind one of the many unique, ancient rocks in the park, his arm outstretched.

“Wiggle it, just a little bit,” sang Hall, the cameraman, mimicking a pop song.

Soon after, Hall yells out “boom” then “yeah” as the rock tumbles down.

“We have now modified Goblin Valley,” the cameraman jokes, crediting “muscles over here.” “Some little kid was about to walk down here and die, and Glenn saved his life by getting the boulder out of the way. It’s all about saving lives here at Goblin Valley.”

Authorities, apparently, didn’t get the joke or appreciate the life-saving intentions.

In the days after the incident went viral, park officials suggested the men broke the law by defacing a state park.

Jeff Rasmussen, the deputy director of Utah State Parks and Recreation, said that in his 22 years on the job he hadn’t heard of any goblins — the moniker for the distinctive rock formation that Taylor toppled — rolling off their pedestals.

“Obviously, we’re very concerned and upset that somebody would come and destroy this natural wonder that took millions of years to be formed,” Rasmussen told KUTV.

Strong reaction to video online

This wasn’t just any old rock.

Created over millions of years by windblown dust and moving water, the distinct boulder that Taylor toppled had been perched gracefully atop a slender rock pedestal. It was one of thousands dotting the southern Utah valley, surrounded by a wall of eroded sandstone cliffs.

In mid-October, Taylor and Hall were among those leading a Boy Scout group through the distinctive park that is touted online as “a showcase of geologic history.”

Hall told KUTV that the men did what they did because the boulder in question seemed unstable.

The man who did the pushing, Taylor, admitted regretfully to the same station that he wished they’d alerted a park ranger about the perceived danger because “it was wrong of us to be vigilantes.”

At the same time, he defended their intent.

“We thought we were doing a good deed,” Taylor said.

It’s not just the “deed” but the celebration that bothered Eugene Swalberg, a Utah State Parks official.

“It gives you a pit in your stomach,” Swalberg told CNN last fall. “There seems to be a lot of happiness and joy with the individuals doing this, and it’s not right. This is not what you do at a natural scenic area.”

The Boy Scouts apparently weren’t fond of what happened either. The National Boy Scouts of America and the organization’s Utah National Parks Council issued almost simultaneous, similar statements in October dismissing those involved not only from their leadership roles but also from the Scouts entirely.

Many who saw the video online echoed that disgust, like one with the user name Drc0ffee, who blasted “idiots pushing meaningless boulders around for a ‘good’ reason or just for s**** and jiggles.”

But the boulder busters got support, too, from some who agreed it appeared to be a safety hazard.

Others were indifferent, like Alex Milburn. “It’s a rock,” he said. “Why is everyone freaking out?”

CNN’s Kyung Lah contributed to this report.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 884 other followers