From the NPS Morning Report 4/15/03
Joshua Tree National Park (CA)
Conviction for Arson, Vandalism of Natural Resources
Joshua Tree NP has historically been a popular gathering spot for outdoor enthusiasts during the Christmas and New Years holidays. During the 2002 holiday, all park campgrounds and facilities were full. While patrolling the Hidden Valley campground after dark on New Year,s Eve, rangers Tim Bertrand and Scott Fischer saw two people on a rock formation above the campground. After hearing the distinctive sound of a tin white gas container hitting the rock, they observed a large fire erupt on the face of the formation. When they identified themselves to the pair, both fled from the area. The rangers apprehended them as they climbed down the back of the formation. They were subsequently identified as Jonathan Thesenga and Erin Whorton. Both were cited for arson, with mandatory court appearances stipulated. Later in the evening, the two rangers were again patrolling the campground. They came across a site with a large fire and several people talking loudly. As the rangers approached the site, they recognized Thesenga and Whorton. Thesenga made several statements indicating that he had no remorse or understanding of what he had done. He stated several times that he planned on doing the same thing next year, and the he would also light several other fires. Thesenga also said that "as the editor," he was not supposed to do things like this. Several days later, the rangers discovered that Thesenga was the senior editor for Climbing Magazine, one of the top two publications on rock climbing. On April 4th, Thesenga and Whorton appeared in federal court. They appeared separately in front of the magistrate, and each pled guilty. Thesenga showed no remorse and did not apologize for his actions to the court. He was sentenced to five years, unsupervised probation, banned from entering the park for five years, and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine. The court also required him to provide copies of the rangers, report and the court proceedings to his employer and the magazine,s owner, the Primedia Corporation. Whorton showed remorse and apologized to the court and to the park staff present for her actions. She was sentenced to a $500 fine and three years, unsupervised probation and banned from entering the park for a period of three years.
[Submitted by Jeff Ohlfs, Acting Chief Ranger]