Phonehenge West creator sentenced to 18 months in jail
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Alan Kimble Fahey, the creator of the elaborate Phonehenge West structure convicted of building-code violations, was sentenced this week to almost 18 months in jail.
Prosecutors argued that Fahey showed a deliberate disregard for authority and had no one but himself to blame for his fate. Fahey’s supporters insisted that he was unfairly punished for what they described as a “victimless crime.”
The jailing of Fahey marked the end of a more than 20-year saga that pitted the retired phone technician against county code enforcement officials and led him in and out of court for the last five years.
Fahey failed to obtain the proper building permits to construct Phonehenge and was facing up to six years in jail for 12 misdemeanor counts of building code violations, according to Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman for the L.A. County district attorney’s office. On Wednesday, L.A. County Superior Court Judge Daviann L. Mitchell sentenced Fahey to 539 days in jail. Pleading financial hardship, Fahey had repaid only $1,250 of the $83,488 he owed the county. Mitchell questioned Fahey’s inability to pay, charging that he had made false statements to the court about his financial status and had “knowingly and willfully disobeyed” the terms of his probation, Gibbons said.
Any restitution to the county will now have to be determined in civil court because the criminal case is over, Gibbons said.
Fahey’s attorney, Jerry E. Lennon, said that given the nonviolent nature of his client’s offense and his documented heart condition, Fahey would probably be eligible for early release.
Fahey spent about 30 years erecting Phongehenge — a 20,000-square-foot labyrinth of interconnected structures, some made from telephone poles — on his Acton property. County code enforcement officers argued that the creation wasn’t structurally sound and was a fire and earthquake risk, and therefore had to come down.
But Fahey’s supporters called Phonehenge “a work of art” worthy of preservation. Many accused the county of being too aggressive in its code enforcement practices and of “stifling creativity.”
“It’s very difficult because your chances of winning against them are very slim,” said Fahey’s wife, Pat. “People will look at us and say ‘I’m not going to take a chance.’ ”
County workers tore down Phonehenge in August 2011.
--Ann M. Simmons