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Two men plead in Jefferson Rock vandalism

March 18, 2005|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Two Harpers Ferry, W.Va., residents entered guilty pleas Thursday in U.S. District Court in connection with a vandalism incident in December at Jefferson Rock, a popular tourist attraction in Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.

Steven Nicholas Hopkins of 448 Persimmon Lane, entered a guilty plea to one count of an indictment charging him with causing damage to Jefferson Rock by painting it red, according to U.S. Attorney Thomas E. Johnston.

Nicholas Brian Vlachos of 151 Blue Ridge Acres, entered a guilty plea to one count of an indictment charging him with assisting Hopkins and his brother, Robert Owen Hopkins Jr., on Dec. 22 to "hinder and prevent their apprehension," Johnston said.

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On Monday, Robert Owen Hopkins Jr., of 448 Persimmon Pear Lane, pleaded guilty to one count of an indictment charging him with causing damage to Jefferson Rock by painting it red with spray paint, Johnston said.

Sentencing for the three men has been scheduled for June 13, Johnston said.

Steven Hopkins and Robert Hopkins each face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 and Vlachos faces up to five years in prison and a fine of $125,000, Johnston said.

All three men are free on bond.

In the vandalism, the top of Jefferson Rock was painted red and red paint was used to write graffiti on nearby rocks, said Chief Ranger Jennifer Flynn.

The word "peace" appeared in the graffiti, but other markings included a star and a symbol that park officials could not initially decipher, Flynn said at the time.

Park officials said it was the "worst case of damage to a cultural resource in the park's 60-year history."

Each year, hundreds of thousands of people hike to the rock to see a panoramic view of the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers, along with Harpers Ferry, park officials said.

Thomas Jefferson described the vista as "perhaps one of the most stupendous scenes in nature" in "Notes on the State of Virginia" after hiking to the spot in 1783.

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