LANCASTER, Calif. (AP) — The eccentric California creator of a Mojave Desert compound of whimsical buildings known as Phonehenge West was jailed Friday for failing to obey an order to tear down the illegal structures.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Daviann Mitchell put off Kim Fahey’s sentencing for code violations, but ordered him held in lieu of $75,000 bail. Judge Mitchell said the “blatant refusal” to demolish the structures and disconnect electricity put his family, the community and first-responders at risk.
Mr. Fahey, 59, told the court that he has not had enough time to tear down the buildings and he doesn’t have a crane to do it safely but that he has removed about 70 doors and windows. He also said he’s not an electrician and doesn’t know how to disconnect the power.
People living in three of the structures were told to move out as the judge ordered, he said, but “they come back when I’m asleep. What can I do? They have nowhere to go.”
Mr. Fahey was convicted of a dozen misdemeanor building code infractions last month. His sentencing was rescheduled to July 22, and he could face several years in prison unless he demolishes his buildings. If he complies, he should get off with no more than a fine and community service, his attorney, Jerry Lennon, said.
Mr. Fahey began building the village as his children were born - now 10 in all - and needed more room.
Among the 30-year phone company technician’s structures is a replica of a 16th century Viking house that he built for one of his daughters and a mobile home remodeled to look like an antique railroad car.
Then came the centerpiece: a 70-foot tower with stained-glass windows and stunning views of the San Gabriel Mountains.
He has said he will file an appeal as soon as he’s sentenced. If the appeal fails, county officials have the authority to tear down Phonehenge themselves.
Mr. Fahey said his constitutional right to do what he wants on his property is being trampled, calling that the real issue in his fight with the county, not his colorful personality or his penchant for building odd-looking buildings.
Mr. Fahey built Phonehenge with just about anything he could find. He used steel beams foraged from an old car wash and an ocean pier. He traded with utility yard supervisors for poles they didn’t need, picked up discarded doors and windows from movie studio sets, and bartered with home builders who overbought supplies.
Mr. Fahey said he is not the only person in Acton, a rural, sparsely populated area 50 miles north of Los Angeles where the gold mines petered out in the 1800s, who is being forced out by increasingly stringent enforcement of building codes, but he is the most vocal.
The district attorney’s office has asked county officials not to comment on the case until Mr. Fahey is sentenced, said Tony Bell, a spokesman for county Supervisor Mike Antonovich, who represents the area.
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