September 12, 2005

High Desert Man Who Threatened Park Rangers With Firearm Sentenced to Federal Prison

U.S. Department of Justice

Debra Wong Yang

United States Attorney
Central District of California

United States Courthouse
312 North Spring Street
Los Angeles, California 90012


September 12, 2005

For Information, Contact Public Affairs
Thom Mrozek (213) 894-6947


Los Angeles, CA - A Newberry Springs who admitted pointing a loaded .30-caliber M-1 carbine at federal law enforcement officers who were investigating possibly unlawful digging on national parkland was sentenced this afternoon to eight months in federal prison.

Leo H. Spatziani, 62, was sentenced by United States District Judge R. Gary Klausner in federal court in Los Angeles. Spatziani previously pleaded guilty to one felony count of assaulting, resisting, intimidating and impeding federal law enforcement officers during an incident on February 12.

In sentencing Spatziani and rejecting the defendant's plea for probation, Judge Klausner said the high desert was "not the wild west" and all citizens have a responsibility to respect the law.

Judge Klausner, who also imposed a $2,000 fine, ordered Spatziani to begin serving his prison term within 30 days.

Spatziani is the friend of another man who owns a small parcel of private property within the Mojave National Preserve. The friend had recently constructed a small cabin on Park Service land near a desert spring, which was outside of his private property line. In early February, the friend was observed operating a trenching machine at the spring. In addition to being on federal land, the area around the cabin is documented as containing archeological and cultural resources.

On February 12, two uniformed National Park Service Rangers contacted Spatziani and his friend regarding the trenching activity. While one of the Rangers was photographing the trenching activity, Spatziani removed the M-1 carbine from a vehicle. He placed a magazine in the weapon and chambered a round. He then pointed the weapon at the Ranger who was taking pictures and began advancing on him. Despite repeated commands to drop the weapon, Spatziani continued to advance with his weapon in the ready firing position. The threatened officer was forced to take defensive cover behind one corner of the cabin and draw his service weapon.

During the ensuing stand-off, the rangers observed that the 8-year-old child of the private property owner was within the line-of-fire. Fearful of the safety of the child and the other individuals, including Spatziani, the two Rangers decided to de-escalate the dangerous situation by slowly withdrawing to their marked patrol vehicle and leaving the area.

Spatziani was arrested in Yermo on February 17 by agents with the United States National Park Service.

The case against Spatziani is the result of an investigation by the United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service.


Release No. 05-129