Instead of bringing smiles to his fellow Burning Man revelers last year, Johnny Goodman, painted face and all, consumed too much alcohol, grabbed Dennis Hinkampâs bicycle and assaulted him so severely that he had to have two plates implanted into his arm.
Then the clown disappeared into the crowds of costumes, masks and exotic disguises that are the hallmark of the annual gathering on the Black Rock Desert north of Gerlach.
Eager to bring this runaway harlequin to justice, Hinkampâs friends launched an elaborate Internet search based on pieces of information they had gathered, including that the attacker was a member of a group called Anarchoclowns.
They finally tracked down Goodman to a hospital in Washington.
âIf youâre a nursing student in Seattle and youâre a clown, youâre pretty identifiable,â? Hinkampâs friend, Jim Graham of Felton, Calif., said Wednesday.
Goodman eventually confessed and was sentenced Tuesday in Pershing County to one count of conspiracy to commit theft, a gross misdemeanor, District Attorney Jim Shirley said.
Before sentencing, Goodman apologized to Hinkamp for hurting him and to the court for wasting its time, said Graham, who attended the hearing with Hinkamp, a resident of Logan, Utah.
Hinkamp said Wednesday in a telephone interview that he accepted Goodmanâs statement.
âI generally believe heâs remorseful for what happened,â? Hinkamp said, but added that he was not sure that Goodman was taking full responsibility and might be blaming it on alcohol or a breakup with his girlfriend.
Barred from festival
Goodman was placed on three-years probation and ordered to pay $21,000 in restitution, which was paid Tuesday, Shirley said. He also is barred from Burning Man, prohibited from entering bars or casinos and must submit to drug and alcohol testing.
He also must remain in Nevada until Washington agrees to take him back, Shirley said.
Hinkamp who works as a volunteer for the event, was riding his bike away from a big crowd gathered for the big burn about 10:30 p.m. on Sept. 4, he said. Suddenly, out of the corner of his eye, he saw the clown coming toward him.
âHe pushed me over and the way I caught myself, I broke my arm,â? Hinkamp said. As he struggled to stand, the clown punched him in the face and kicked him several times, he said.
The clown rode off on the bike and Hinkamp was helped to the medical tent, he said. Once back in Utah, he was diagnosed with a radial head fracture and underwent surgery. He ended up with two plates and 13 screws in his arm, Graham said.
The clown might have remained anonymous had it not been for the efforts of Graham and others who immediately tried to find the culprit clown. They posted messages on two of the Burning Man Internet discussion lists asking for tips.
Soon, they learned the clownâs name was Johnny and learned he was part of a group of clowns who had gathered for the event.
âI donât want to make out like all clowns are bad,â? Hinkamp said. âHe just happened to be a bad egg.â?
In response to the Internet chatter, a person posted an apology, but didnât reveal his name. Graham turned the e-mail address over to a former-hacker friend, who traced it to a medical center in Seattle.
Graham began communicating with the clown, urging him to identify himself and saying it was only a matter of time before he would be found. As the sleuths moved closer, Goodman came forward.
âA horrible thingâ
âI did a horrible thing and I should pay for it,â? his note said. âI donât know what came over me. Iâm really not a psycho. … I attacked you and I am deeply ashamed.â?
Graham and Hinkamp turned the information over to law enforcement, and Goodman was arrested.
Hinkamp said he plans to return to Burning Man this year, but with some trepidation.
âIâm sure Iâll be looking over my shoulder a little more than I used to,â? he said. âBut I need to get back on the horse and to thank a lot of people who helped me through the year.â?