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Alleged rock vandals out on bond

January 23, 2005|by MARLO BARNHART

HARPERS FERRY, W.VA. - Three Harpers Ferry residents indicted Jan. 19 in connection with last month's vandalism at Jefferson Rock turned themselves in to federal authorities Thursday and are free on personal recognizance bond, according to U.S. Attorney Thomas E. Johnston.

Robert Owen Hopkins Jr., 20, and Steven Nicholas Hopkins, 18, both of 448 Persimmon Pear Lane; and Nicholas Brian Vlachos, 22, of 151 Blue Ridge Acres, are named in the three-count indictment.

According to a press release from Johnston's office, brothers Robert and Steven Hopkins and an unnamed juvenile are alleged to have conspired to willfully injure the historic rock between Dec. 20 and 22 by painting the top red, using paint they purchased and brought to Harpers Ferry.

The second count alleges the Hopkins brothers and an unnamed juvenile aided and abetted each other in causing the damage to Jefferson Rock, the press release said.

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In the third count, allegations are that Vlachos knew about the vandalism and assisted the Hopkins brothers in hindering and preventing their apprehension, the press release said.

If convicted of the allegations in the first two counts of the indictment, each of the Hopkins brothers could face a maximum of 15 years in prison and fines of $500,000. Vlachos could face a maximum of five years in prison and a fine of $125,000 if convicted in the third count, according to the press release.

The week before Christmas, someone painted the top of the famous rock red and used red paint to write graffiti on nearby rocks, Chief Ranger Jennifer Flynn said in December. In a press release about the vandalism, park officials said it was the "worst case of damage to a cultural resource in the park's 60-year history."

Cleaning the rock has begun, said Dennis Frye, park chief of interpretation and cultural re-sources. A professional conservator has used an acetone mixture to clean the surface, but Frye said Friday that repeated applications will be needed to absorb the paint, which has infiltrated the rock.

"The cost is rising," Frye said. The work has been suspended until weather conditions improve.

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