CA Phonehenge creator guilty of building violation
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The retired telephone service technician who dotted Southern California's desert landscape with a colorful collection of eccentric structures he calls Phonehenge West was convicted Tuesday of nine misdemeanor counts of maintaining buildings for which he never obtained permits.
Alan Kimble Fahey, 59, of Acton, was charged with 14 misdemeanors, but jurors were only able to reach a verdict on the nine.
They asked that attorneys for both sides to reargue their cases on the other counts so they can deliberate further. The judge agreed and told the attorneys and Fahey to return to court Wednesday morning.
If convicted of all charges, he could face as much as seven years in prison.
Prosecutors declined to comment on the initial convictions until the other charges are resolved.
Fahey, however, didn't hesitate to speak out after leaving court late Tuesday afternoon. He said he wasn't surprised by the verdict, complaining that he had been railroaded. He added that he plans to appeal.
"I'm not stunned," he said. "I didn't get to have one witness. I couldn't show one exhibit. I wasn't allowed to have the jury come to my property."
Fahey began building Phonehenge West in 1984 on his 1.7-acre property in the sparsely populated Mojave Desert community of Acton, 50 miles north of downtown Los Angeles.
Over the years it has grown to include a barn where he and his family live, another structure that resembles a railroad car and a tower with stained-glass windows that rises 70 feet above the desert floor. Several of the buildings, constructed with scores of utility poles and steel beams, are connected by ramps and bridges.
Authorities say they are a safety hazard and must be torn down.
Supporters call them a work of art, some comparing the structures to Los Angeles' historic Watts Towers, which were created by another self-taught builder, Simon Rodia, over a period of 30 years.
Fahey, who has worked on Phonehenge West nearly that long, ran afoul of county building inspectors almost from Day One.
During trial testimony, which lasted a week, authorities said they visited his property several times between 1986 and 1995 and again in 2006 and 2007. They said they issued citations and stop-work orders but that he ignored them.
Fahey said he initially tried to work with building inspectors but that they repeatedly demanded changes, lost his plans at one point and quit contacting him for several years while he continued to build.
"I made them look like monkeys," the colorful, outspoken builder said of his testimony.