Seven Issaquah High School football players were charged with misdemeanors Wednesday for stealing a 10-foot, hand-carved Snoqualmie Tribe story pole from a King County park and burning it at an unofficial pre-game rally.
The boys were trying to psych themselves up for a Sept. 26 game against the Sammamish High School Totems, King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng said in a 13-page report about the incident.
Their actions “would support the filing of felony charges of first-degree theft and first-degree malicious mischief because of the value of the pole,” Maleng wrote, “but a mechanical application of the law is not always in the interest of justice.”
The story pole, titled “Man-who-eats-lots-of-fish,” was carved by artist David Horsley. The county paid $8,000 for the pole five years ago. It was one of three displayed at Beaver Lake Park.
In an October interview, Horsley said of the vandalism: “They can’t respect something they don’t know anything about.”
Maleng characterized the crime as a prank that got out of control.
He said he found no evidence of a hate crime, though the boys’ actions demonstrate “complete disregard for public art and complete ignorance of cultural sensitivity toward Native Americans.”
The boys told investigators they thought the pole was worth less than $100.
Third-degree theft and third-degree malicious mischief charges were filed Wednesday against 18-year-olds Michael Livingston and Zachariah Johns and four 17-year-olds. Andrew Shute, 18, will be charged with malicious mischief and possession of stolen property.
The 18-year-olds, legal adults, are to be arraigned Nov. 24. The 17-year-olds, legal juveniles, will be arraigned Nov. 26.
All are expected to plead guilty as charged, Maleng said. Thirty to 40 students watched Sept. 25 as the top half of the pole was chopped up, doused with gasoline and set afire. Some of the football players removed their shirts, painted their faces and bodies, and danced around the burning pole.
The other half of the pole - the whole piece was too heavy to carry easily - was burned in the fireplace at the Livingston home, Maleng said.