Fatali Pleads Guilty to All Charges

Discussion in 'Nature' started by bert_nelson|1, Dec 10, 2001.

  1. Source: Salt Lake Tribune see URL below

    Photographer Fatali Pleads Guilty in Fires

    Saturday, December 8, 2001


    Springdale nature photographer Michael Fatali
    pleaded guilty Friday to seven federal misdemeanors
    for starting fires in two Utah national parks, including a
    blaze that marred sandstone underneath Delicate Arch
    -- the state icon that graces some license plates.

    Fatali, who started the fires to achieve dramatic
    lighting effects during photo shoots, faces up to 6
    months in federal prison and a $5,000 fine on each
    count when he is sentenced in February. Fatali has
    agreed to pay restitution to the National Park Service, a
    sum that prosecutors estimate will be $16,000.

    Fatali lit the fires with Duraflame logs on Sept. 18
    and 19, 2000, to demonstrate to amateur photographers
    "nighttime photographic techniques," he admitted in a
    statement to prosecutors. The unauthorized fires
    scorched and discolored sections of sandstone beneath
    and next to Delicate Arch in Arches National Park,
    prosecutors say.

    Fatali also admitted Friday that in August 1997 he set
    two fires at Canyonlands National Park that also
    damaged park resources.

    Prosecutor Wayne Dance said Fatali's crimes have
    untold victims. Thousands of tourists visit the parks
    each year.

    "Our national parks are here for the enjoyment of
    current and future generations," Dance said. "It's a
    matter that's very serious."

    Fatali declined to comment and his attorney, Kristine
    Rogers, deferred comment until her client is sentenced
    on Feb. 1, 2001.

    In his statement to prosecutors, Fatali said he brought
    aluminum pans to the shoots to contain the fire. The
    pans failed, however, and the Duraflame logs burned
    directly on the sandstone, causing damage directly
    under and to the west and east of the arch.

    Fatali also said some of the sooty, oily residue was
    tracked onto the sandstone after he stomped on the
    duraflame logs. Fatali told U.S. Magistrate Samuel
    Alba he did not have a permit to light any of the fires.

    Park visitors reported the damage to rangers the next

    Officials were able to remove some of the scorch
    marks immediately, but remaining scars from the fire
    have proven difficult for park service employees to

    On Aug. 12, 1997, Fatali used wood from
    Canyonlands National Park to build a fire at Horsehoof
    Arch. The next day, he did the same thing at a slot
    canyon known as "The Joint Trail."

    Fatali, 36, who is known for his stunning images of
    Utah's desert landscapes, operates a gallery outside
    Zion National Park in Springdale and a photography
    school in nearby Rockville.

    Photographer admits fire role

    By Angie Welling
    Deseret News staff writer
    Friday, December 7, 2001

    The nature photographer accused of setting fires at
    Delicate Arch last year pleaded
    guilty Friday in federal court.

    Michael Fatali, Springdale, also pleaded guilty to
    setting two fires in Canyonlands
    National Park in August 1997. The 36-year-old
    professional photographer faces up to six
    months in prison and a $5,000 fine for each of the seven
    misdemeanor counts.

    Fatali also agreed to pay full restitution to the
    National Park Service for damage
    caused by the fires. Restoration is estimated at more
    than $16,000.

    On Sept. 18, 2000, Fatali led a group of amateur
    photographers to Delicate Arch to
    photograph the famous four-story sandstone arch, which is
    the backdrop of some Utah
    license plates. At his direction, Fatali's assistant and
    others from the group set two fires,
    one directly under the arch and another to the east of
    the structure. Aluminum baking
    pans brought along to contain the fire failed, and the
    flames scorched and discolored the
    sandstone. Fatali tried to stomp out the fires, but one
    was still burning when the group left the area.

    Park visitors reported the damage to rangers the next
    Officials were able to remove some of the scorch marks
    immediately, but remaining
    scars from the fire could not be removed because an oily
    or waxy stain had penetrated
    the rock.

    Fatali on Friday also admitted to starting two fires in
    Canyonlands National Park, the
    first on Aug. 12, 1997, at Horsehoof Arch and again on
    Aug. 13, 1997, at the Joint Trails
    Needles District. He used wood from within the park to
    start the two fires, he said.

    According to prosecutors, in November 2000 Fatali sent an
    e-mail message to members of the photography community
    apologizing for what happened, saying he
    "seriously regretted" the incident. "I simply screwed
    up," the message said.

    Defense attorney Kristine Rogers declined to comment
    Friday, saying Fatali would
    make a statement after his Feb. 1, 2002, sentencing

    Assistant U.S. Attorney Wayne Dance said Fatali fully
    acknowledged his criminal
    conduct by pleading guilty to all seven counts as

    "It's a matter that's very serious," Dance said. "All of
    our national parks are for the
    enjoyment of future generations."

    Source: Deseret News at the URL below

  2. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Thanks for the detailed report. I think the seriousness of the Fatali case is very different from the recent Weldon Lee "busted" case, although both incidents didn't make us nature photographers look good. However, I think we have already spent a lot of bandwidth on the Fatali case in the last year. After a bunch of us threw rocks at Weldon Lee, I sure hope that we can take a break. :)
  3. Sad, sad commentary on some folks who apparently view public lands as their own domain. It surely will make it harder on the rest of us. Of course I'm convinced Mr. Fatali made a nice profit on his workshops and images using areas that cost him nothing to access.
  4. xx


    maybe if Fatali had been "busted" earlier for minor offenses like the ones Lee was charged for, he never would have gotten this far.

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