2 June – LAWFUEL – The Law News Network – A Newberry Springs resident admitted this morning that he pointed a loaded .30-caliber M-1 carbine with the intent to threaten federal law enforcement officers who were investigating possibly unlawful digging on national parkland.
Leo H. Spatziani, 62, pleaded guilty this morning to one felony count of assaulting, resisting, intimidating and impeding federal law enforcement officers on February 12. Spatziani pleaded guilty before United States District Judge R. Gary Klausner in federal court in Los Angeles.
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 sensitive 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 8-year-old child of the private property owner was reported by the Rangers to be 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.
Spatziani is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Klausner on August 15. At the time of sentencing, Spatziani faces a maximum possible penalty of 20 years in federal prison.
The case against Spatziani is the result of an investigation by the United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service.
CONTACT: Assistant United States Attorney Joseph O. Johns