California's Phonehenge West begins to come down
LANCASTER, Calif. – The quirky Mojave Desert attraction known as Phonehenge West is coming down and it's colorful creator is not going to jail — at least not now — for constructing the dozen odd-shaped structures without bothering to obtain building permits.
A judge had been scheduled to sentence Kim Fahey of Acton on Friday, perhaps to as much as a dozen years in jail, for defying authorities for decades as he created Phonehenge West out of everything from abandoned movie sets to discarded utility poles and other junk that nobody else wanted.
However, she postponed his sentencing to Sept. 23 after learning a demolition crew that Fahey hired was scheduled to arrive Friday at his home 50 miles north of Los Angeles to begin dismantling a 70-foot tower he erected. The building, with its quirky shape, stained-glass windows and energy-producing windmills, was recently opened up to Glamour magazine for a photo shoot.
Superior Court Judge Daviann L. Mitchell said she was also promised by Fahey's lawyer that nearly a dozen other buildings, including a replica of a 16th century Viking house and an antique railroad car, would be coming down soon.
"Mr. Fahey, I want to compliment you, it sounds like everything is going along very well," Mitchell told the burly, 59-year-old builder as he sat quietly in court in denim coveralls and his long white hair pulled back in a ponytail.
If he continues to comply with her orders, Mitchell indicated, she would sentence him to community service rather than jail.
Fahey spoke only to say, "It's OK by me, your honor," when the judge asked if he was willing to delay his sentencing until September.
Outside court, he remained defiant, saying authorities never should have forced him to tear down Phonehenge West. He added that his buildings are better constructed than the county courthouse he was convicted in.
"They're spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to crush me. Why is that?" he asked. "There are still gangs, there are still drugs, but the tree house guy is gone."
After he is sentenced, Fahey said, he plans to appeal.
In the meantime, just like the legendary bird the phoenix, Fahey is hoping Phonehenge West will rise from the ashes. Or in its case, the scrap heap.
As it's being torn down, he plans to move it piece by piece to a ranch 60 miles away where he has a 99-year lease. This time, he said, he intends to get the proper permits before he assembles his structures.
Fahey has complained that he did get permits when he first started to add buildings to the 1.7-acre property where he moved 30 years ago, but authorities lost them. Then, as he continued to build without permits, he said, authorities didn't bother him for more than 10 years.
That ended five years ago when authorities raided his home and ordered him to stop constructing his tower, which was to be 120 feet high. They said an anonymous neighbor had complained.
Prosecutors say the colorful, wooden buildings, with electricity provided by unapproved wiring, are a fire hazard to the brush-dotted rural area of Acton.
As Fahey's fight with authorities has unfolded, some people have come to his defense, praising Phonehenge West as a stunning example of American folk art. Nearly 30,000 supporters have flocked to his Save Phonehenge West Facebook page.
About two dozen friends, neighbors and relatives filled Mitchell's courtroom to overflowing Friday, with several having to wait outside.
"It's just terrible what they're doing," said Paul Kerpsie, a neighbor who said he has known Fahey for 30 years. "They're like terrorists."