A Sullivan’s Island man has been indicted on federal charges of damaging and defacing an archeological resource for “forcibly pulling” on a support bar of the Fort Sumter National Monument.
Noah Michael Sigalas, 21, is also facing charges of committing a depredation against property of the United States. The charges by a federal grand jury fall under the Archeological Resources Protection Act. His arraignment is scheduled for May 24 at the Charleston County federal courthouse.
The support bar Sigalas is accused of pulling, causing damage in excess of $1,000, was “stabilizing part of a casemate wall along the north flank” of Fort Sumter, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The indictment says the incident took place in March 2016.
The penalties of both charges add up to 12 years in prison, several years of supervised release and fines exceeding $250,000. The Investigative Services Branch of the National Park Service is leading the investigation, the release said.
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Fort Sumter, the state’s top historical tourist destination, is where the Civil War began. On April 12, 1861, 43 Confederate cannons around the harbor began firing on Fort Sumter, manned by federal troops.
The park service has been increasing its law enforcement presence in local parks to prevent pilfering, theft and vandalism, acting Park Superintendent Laura Segars said. She said people sometimes steal bricks from Fort Sumter, which is a federal crime.
Ben Byrnes, Chief Ranger of Visitor and Resource Protection for Fort Sumter National Monument, said 90 percent of the bricks visitors see at Fort Sumter are original.
“These are not cast concrete blocks that are easily replaced,” Byrnes said. “There is no machine to make ‘new’ handmade bricks from prior to 1860. Destroying any part of Fort Sumter brick is like literally erasing a page from the history of the United States.”
U.S. Attorney Beth Drake of the South Carolina district said that protecting the district’s archeological resources is important. “One of the main purposes of the Archeological Resources Protection Act was to provide for the enforcement of penalties against those who loot or vandalize valuable archeological resources,” Drake said. “Prosecuting cases under this act helps to send a message to those who visit our national parks that these historical locations should be preserved rather than vandalized.”