Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2009 | 6:39 p.m.
YouTube video interview with Pepitone
The man charged with vandalizing the iconic “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign earlier this month told police he was protesting President Obama and the health care reform bill working its way through Congress.
He told police he also was protesting Arizona Charlie’s casino, which he claims stole jackpot winnings from him, according to a Metro Police arrest report released Tuesday.
Joseph Pepitone, 69, was wearing sweatpants and a protest barrel when a Metro Police officer driving southbound Dec. 18 on Las Vegas Boulevard saw him throw paint onto the sign. The barrel read, “Don’t bury Grandpa, Obama. Nancy and Reid.” It also read, “Please don’t pass the bill,” according to the police report.
When the officer approached Pepitone in front of the sign, he voluntarily said he was committing the acts because of Obama and because Arizona Charlie’s stole money from him, police said.
Pepitone had thrown three glass Christmas ornaments filled with red paint and one ornament filled with black paint at the sign, which caused about $800 in damage, according to an estimate from the Young Electric Sign Company. The company owns the sign and leases it to Clark County.
Twelve years ago, Pepitone hit a jackpot on a slot machine at Arizona Charlie’s but officials said the machine had malfunctioned and he was denied $463,895 in winnings. He appealed to the state Supreme Court, but lost.
Pepitone told police he had called the Associated Press the night before the incident because he was going to make a statement at the sign. Coincidentally, KVVU Channel 5, the local Fox affiliate, happened to be at the sign with cameras rolling to report on a Metro Police program that focuses on graffiti.
Pepitone is facing one gross misdemeanor count of malicious destruction of property in connection with the incident. He is scheduled to be arraigned Feb. 17.
Police said Pepitone has no prior criminal history.
The vandalism marked the second time in 2009 the sign was hit with graffiti. In July, a tagger wrote on the famous sign with red pen.
The sign, designed by Betty Whitehead Willis, has been ingrained in Las Vegas history since 1959. In May, it was entered into the National Register of Historic Places.