Woman who defaced U.S. national parks, posted exploits on social media, pleads guilty

A San Diego woman who painted and drew on natural rock formations at U.S. national parks across the west and shared her work on social media, pleaded guilty June 13 to defacing government property.

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Casey Nocket, 23, pleaded guilty in a federal court in Fresno, Calif., to seven charges for the autumn 2014 painting spree at seven national parks including Yosemite in California and Zion in Utah.

She also admitted to defacing rocks at Crater Lake National Park in Oregon and Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.

“The defendant’s defacement of multiple rock formations showed a lack of respect for the law and our shared national treasures,” said acting U.S. Attorney Philip Talbert.

Nocket used Instagram and Tumblr to document her trip and her graffiti-like work, which led to broad outrage on social media. (Many of her original posts have since been taken down.)

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Reddit users began posting about Nocket’s drawings, tipping off National Parks Service investigators.

NPS spokesman Jeffrey Olson told Global News that NPS staff used the Reddit thread to advance their investigation which started in October 2014.

Olson said social media has been both a boon and bane to the NPS.

“It has spawned some copycats but it has also helped us solve a crime,” he said. “There was quite a backlash on social media, shaming [Nocket] – some of it appropriate, some very inappropriate and threatening.”

Nocket was sentenced to two years’ probation and 200 hours of community service. She is also banned from all national parks for her probation period.

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The vandalism spree caused serious cleanup problems at the national parks. The sandblasting and chemical stripping used to remove paint can cause even more damage to irreplaceable natural features, so cleanup crews have been relying on water, time and elbow grease.

“It’s very low tech and time consuming,” said Olson. “And therefore very expensive.”

At two parks, Crater Lake and Death Valley in California, the cleaning has yet to be completed nearly two years later.

A later hearing will determine how much Nocket will have to pay to help with the cleanup.

— with files from the Associated Press

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