Sam Weddle, chief ranger for the park, said the students, both 16-year-old males, will face misdemeanor charges and will have to appear before the U.S. magistrate in Rome.
Weddle said felony charges were an option, but will not be pursued because the extent of damages was not as severe as first believed and also due to sensitivity that the crime involved juveniles. Weddle said he is unsure of the maximum penalty the alleged perpetrators could face if convicted, but possible judicial options include fines and/or community service, which may include duties inside the park.
Last week, district ranger Jim Staub, who led the vandalism investigation, said under the federal Archaeological Resource Protection Act, each person involved in the crime could face felony charges resulting in up to a $100,000 fine and five years in jail.
Weddle said various tips from community sources led park investigators to the two suspects who confessed to the crime Friday afternoon, Jan. 9. Weddle said he is unaware of the motive behind the paintball spree.
“It’s always pleasing to know that the citizens of this area do hold the park in high regards and were not only offended by the fact that these acts happened, but came forward in large numbers to say, ‘What can we do to help?’” he said. “It’s a very nice feeling to know you have that kind of support in the community.”
Park personnel used pressure washers to remove red and green paint splotches from the monuments — many over a century old. Although park officials initially said the cleanup effort could cost as much as $60,000, they scaled back their estimate for the project to about $10,000. Weddle said there were a few permanent stains to a small number of markers and monuments