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Man gets jail for mischief at Yellowstone

For The Win logo For The Win 7/10/2019 David Strege
a group of palm trees next to a body of water: File Photo © File Photo File Photo

A man who walked off the boardwalk and across the outflow stream of Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park received a sentence Tuesday designed to send a message to others thinking about defying federal regulations.

Jason Nguyen, 28, of the San Francisco Bay Area was sentenced to four days in jail, fined $1,040, and received a year of probation and a one-year ban from Yellowstone after the federal judge tossed out a previous plea agreement, according to MTN News.

Nguyen, attending federal court in Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone by telephone, pleaded for no jail time, but Judge Mark Carman did not relent. The original agreement Nguyen reached with a U.S. attorney was to pay a $1,540 fine.

On May 30, Amy Wagler videotaped Nguyen completing his illegal actions, took a photo of the car he drove away in and reported to the authorities what she overheard him say to his friend.

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"He asked his friend if he got the shot, which was premeditated since his friend had to drop him off at the boardwalk, and the friend said yes," Wagler wrote in her video description on YouTube.

But in court, Nguyen told the judge a different version. He said he saw the warning signs about staying on the boardwalks but was in a hurry to pick up a friend at the airport so he decided to take a shortcut.

Later, however, Nguyen admitted he was picked up by wardens at Old Faithful after visiting Grand Prismatic Spring. The judge noted he must not have been in that big a hurry to pick up a friend at the airport if he went to Old Faithful next.

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"We will not tolerate people who damage resources," Judge Carmen said in court, according to MTN News.

"I think you're a good guy who made a serious mistake."

The U.S. attorney said video of Nguyen walking across the algal mats went viral so it's important to send a strong message to people who see it and the judge agreed.

Nguyen, who said he feels bad about damage he caused and was sorry, has 14 days to appeal his sentence and until June 1, 2020 to pay his fine, MTN News reported.

Photo of Grand Prismatic Spring courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

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