A North Carolina man accused of cutting a piece off Clemson’s famous Howard’s Rock will have to serve 25 days of community service, but will likely avoid prison.
A jury in Pickens County found 20-year-old Micah Rogers of Pisgah Forest, NC guilty of malicious damage of less than $2,000 on Thursday. They acquitted Rogers of the more severe grand larceny charge. Circuit Judge James Barber sentenced Rogers to 30 days and a $1,000 fine, but that was suspended in favor of the community service and a $750 fine plus court fees. Under the conditions set by the judge, Rogers could face prison if he does not fulfill those requirements.
Defense attorney Frank Eppes said he thought that a fair ruling. “My client and his family respect the jury’s verdict,” he told reporters after the ruling. “We appreciate the time and attention they put into the case. We’re very pleased that his conviction is to a misdemeanor. I think the judge’s sentence was appropriate, given the situation.”
Shortly before the verdict was returned, the jury had told Judge Barber they were deadlocked. But he urged them to reach a decision and said it was unlikely new evidence would emerge if a new trial were called. The jury returned 20 minutes later with their split verdict.
“This case was always about finding the person that damaged the rock and bringing them to justice,” 13th Circuit Solicitor Walt Wilkins told reporters after the sentence was handed down. “The sentence was never something that was in consideration by this office and typically never is. That’s up to judges.”
Howard’s Rock is perhaps Clemson’s most famous sports tradition. Before every home game, the team will rub the rock for good luck before running into the stadium. The tradition dates back to 1967. The damaged rock still remains on a pedestal inside the stadium, although security on its pedestal has been heightened.
Prosecutors had placed Rogers at Clemson Memorial Stadium during the night of the June 2013 vandalism. They also maintained Rogers, who has consistently maintained his innocence, lied to investigators about stonemason tools in his pickup truck. The 13th Circuit Solicitor’s Office also relied on the testimony from a friend of Rogers who was with him at the time. That witness testified he saw Rogers climb over a wall into the stadium and heard him smash the case surrounding the rock.
But the friend never testified seeing Rogers with the missing brick-sized section of the stone. That missing section has never been recovered.
The Solicitor’s Office also relied on testimony from a sports memorabilia expert who testified the missing piece could be valued between $32,500 to $132,000 depending on how it was treated. But Eppes had argued the only value lost was the roughly $500 case, since the Clemson football players and fans continue to enjoy the remaining rock’s presence during home games.
Rogers’ father, Michael Rogers, and Alden Gainey (another friend who investigators say was with Rogers) are each charged with conspiracy and obstructing justice in connection to the case. Their trial dates have not been announced.