A sledgehammer-wielding suspect arrested at CSUN in Northridge last Friday was charged with felony vandalism by police. According to police, the suspect was seen on campus carrying a sledgehammer, with which he threatened and chased several students. Campus police received several calls, and responded quickly. Unfortunately, the response wasn’t quick enough to save a statue of Matty the Matador, CSUN’s mascot, from assault.
When police arrived, they held the suspect at gunpoint and demanded he drop the hammer – which he did. The suspect, John Moya, a former CSUN student, was arrested without incident and charged with felony vandalism. No students were injured during the incident, though damages to the statue are still being assessed.
Vandalism is covered under California Penal Code 594 PC, and described as maliciously defacing, damaging, or destroying someone else’s property. Vandalism is often associated with breaking windows, smashing mailboxes and graffiti. However, California’s vandalism laws can cover a number of surprising circumstances. For example, writing your name in wet cement on someone else’s (or the public’s) property can result in vandalism charges. Another example would be smashing dishes in a fit of rage that one individual and their spouse jointly own.
The severity of the charge depends on how much money the damaged or destroyed property was worth. If it’s less than $400, the charge will be a misdemeanor. In these cases, the possible penalties include up to 1 year in county jail, a maximum fine of $1,000 ($5,000 if the defendant has a prior vandalism charge), and informal probation. Additionally, conditions for probation can include mandatory counseling, community service, and a suspended driver’s license.
If the value of the property damaged or destroyed is worth $400 or more, then the charge becomes a “wobbler.” For felony convictions, the possible penalties include probation and up to 1 year in county jail OR 16 months to 3 years in county jail, a fine of up to $10,000 ($50,000 if the damaged property was worth $10,000 or more), and similar probation conditions to the misdemeanor charge.