Wow, this story has it all. Unattainable glamour, a desperate scheme, legal drama. And a mystery I can’t answer.
It seems that in September, Utah man Jonathon M. Wall used the ID he uses to get to his job at the Hill Air Force Base to pretend that he was a Federal agent, in order to get into The Salt Lake City Comic Con’s $10,000 a head VIP room. He was caught, and agreed to a plea bargain, pleading guilty to charges of impersonating a federal officer. However, this is a felony and carries a potential punishment of three years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Pretty stiff for just trying to get a peek at Boomer, Virgil and Chaka sitting around eating tuna fish sandwiches.
Wall’s plot was a bit more elaborate than just waving am ID around. He claimed to be a federal officer who needed tickets for the VIP room because he was chasing down a fugitive. What could possibly have been suspicious about this story? A retired policeman who was working as security suspected something fishy was going on, started questioning Wall, and the jig was up.
But there’s more! The judge in the case admits to having “a sleepless night” over Wall’s sentencing. Former Utah supreme court justice Judge Jill Parrish was concerned that Wall didn’t understand his plea bargain and thought he’d just get “a slap on the wrist” for a crime that is…pretty minor where I come from.
The judge said Wall seemed like an otherwise law-abiding citizen, and she was concerned about his statement at a Tuesday hearing that investigators told him that he’d get a slap on the wrist if he cooperated. She also wasn’t sure if he agreed with prosecutors’ version of what happened or understood the long-ranging implications of a felony conviction.
“I simply do not feel that I can make a finding that the plea was a voluntary and intelligent choice,” Parrish said. The judge offered to find a new attorney to review the case pro-bono. She pushed back against objections from prosecutor Carlos Esqueda, who denied that Air Force agents ever offered to go easy on Wall.
“This is a criminal offense, and there are consequences,” Esqueda said.
The Air Force has objected to Wall pleading guilty to a misdemeanor, even as he may be getting a new defense attorney. Parrish’s desire to get justice is admirable. She even asked if Wall was wearing a costume, as many do at comic cons. She was informed that he was wearing shorts and a t-shirt.
While Wall’s future remains in doubt, here’s the thing that bugs me: where did that $10,000 VIP room thing came from? Does it really exist?
I looked at the old SLCCC website and VIP passes were a few hundred bucks. This story includes the criminal complaint and no mention of a $10,000 a head room. What could you possibly get for $10k? A happy ending from Virgil?
Does anyone know if this is a real figure? Or just something that got slipped into an already colorful story?
Speaking of the Salt Lake City comic con experience, an area man thinks maybe holding two events, SLCCC and Fan-X is a bit much.
But I still wonder whether Utah’s geek community is big enough to support two fan events every year and whether Salt Lake Comic Con’s staff wouldn’t be doing fans a service by concentrating their efforts on one gigantic blowout every autumn. For one thing, going to a con is expensive, if you factor in the passes to get in the door, the tickets for the special events (like this year’s appearance by astronaut Buzz Aldrin), fees for photo ops and autographs, not to mention the pricey Salt Palace concessions. Add in materials for cosplay, and the bill can really add up — and doing it twice a year is a strain on some geek budgets.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.