Stealin’ rocks, and doin’ time

A Nampa man may be breaking rocks instead of stealing them after being sentenced to nine months in prison in U.S. District Court on Monday for stealing rocks from Bureau of Land Management ground. Following his release from prison he’ll still be on supervised release for three years.

Say what? Those rocks wouldn’t be diamonds would they?

Nope, just ordinary sandstone.

So mommas, don’t let your children grow up to be rock thieves. It doesn’t pay.

Total value of the rocks stolen was estimated at a measly $1,472, which isn’t much, but it is enough to make his crime a felony.

Technically, his crime was theft of government property. Yes, those rocks on BLM ground are owned by the government, so leave them where they lie. The only thing you should pick up and carry away from government-owned ground is litter you brought onto the ground, or that was left by uncaring nincompoops before you.

The news release from the U.S. District Attorney brought to mind the story from last year of the two scout leaders who didn’t steal rocks, but they did knock over a rock in a National Park in Utah. The rock had remained in the same position since long before white men roamed these plains. And just a couple weeks ago I took a little excursion down to the Magic Valley where I took a side trip out to see Balanced Rock, just a hop, skip and jump from Castleford, Idaho. I took some pictures of the rock formation and as I showed off the picture I had plenty of people ask me if I had tried to topple it.

Number one, it’s a lot bigger than it looks in a photograph. The narrow base that looks so small in the picture is probably the size of a semi truck, although from a distance and with no reference to compare it too, I’m not a real great judge of size. But secondly, I certainly want it to be around for the next guy to see.

But back to the rock thief, there is just a little more to the story. Apparently this guy was already on probation for a similar charge from 2009 when he again started rustling rocks in 2012 and 2013. He would steal the rocks, you see, to sell commercially as part of landscaping projects. Total weight, 9,800 pounds.

So it’s not like he just got caught picking up a few pretty rocks, he was taking pickup loads and using them to make a profit. He was also doing it when he was already on probation for doing it before. That’s a probation violation, something the guys in black robes sitting high above you don’t like to hear as they look down on people who have been given a second chance, but don’t learn from their mistakes.

The rock thief also paid $1,472 in restitution, along with $145.98 for the probation violation and a fine of $500. He was also ordered to pay $350 still owing on his probation violation and they tossed in another $100 for a “special assessment”, whatever that is.

Not exactly a cheap lesson, but the monetary value seems a pittance compared to doing hard time. Heck, even if he spends the whole time sitting in a six by ten cell by himself, away from the more dangerous criminals, you’d think he might learn his lesson. Even under the best of circumstances, I can’t imagine serving prison time being on anybody’s bucket list.

I just hope the U.S. Attorney doesn’t start going after the people who received those stolen rocks. Of course I’d be willing to bet they think the guy bought the landscaping rock from a legitimate, private source.

But just let this be a warning, with a large majority of Idaho being public lands, keep your hands in your pockets. The next time you’re out spelunking, or trekking across the lava beds, or hiking through our state’s forests and deserts, bring home with you only what you took, no more and no less.

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