Los Angeles

Man Pleads Not Guilty in Venice Memorial Vandalism

He faces up to six years in prison if convicted.

A man who allegedly defaced the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Venice within days of Memorial Day pleaded not guilty Monday to a felony vandalism charge.

Angel Castro, 24, is due back in court on Aug. 1 for a preliminary hearing to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to proceed to trial.

He faces up to six years in prison if convicted, according to the District Attorney's Office.

Castro was arrested last Wednesday without incident in the Exposition Park area of Los Angeles and allegedly "admitted to his role in the vandalism of the Veterans Memorial Wall," said Ramon Montenegro of the sheriff's Transit Policing Division.

Vandals sprayed a thick sheen of silver paint over most of the 2,273 names of Vietnam veterans on the memorial, which is on the side of a building at Metro's bus yard on Pacific Avenue near Sunset Court. Prosecutors said the vandalism apparently occurred on May 25.

Castro allegedly uses the moniker LITER (pronounced LIGHT-er), which was one of the four names found at the scene, Montenegro said.

The sheriff's department has asked anyone with information about the three others -- NONER, PHEB and SNAKE -- to call Transit Policing Division detectives at (888) 950-SAFE (7233).

Detectives have released surveillance photos of the person believed to be NONER, who authorities think is linked to a Bay Area tagging crew.

City and county officials have offered $30,000 in reward money for information leading to the arrest and conviction of all those involved.

Painted in the early 1990s, the mural has a message at the top reading "You Are Not Forgotten'' and bears the names of the soldiers counted as prisoners of war or missing in action in Vietnam.

Though most, if not all, of the paint was removed by volunteers before Memorial Day, the decades-old mural had no protective anti-graffiti coating, so some of the original mural was destroyed in the process.

City Councilman Mike Bonin called the graffiti a "horrible insult to those who paid the sacrifice for their nation." He called on members of the public to provide photos to help in the restoration because the mural's artist, Peter Stewart, is deceased.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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