Thursday, 25 December 2008

St. George man among 19 pardoned by Bush

A man convicted in 1992 of digging up ancient Indian ruins on public lands in Garfield County is among 19 people being pardoned for various crimes as President George W. Bush prepares to leave office (Ben Winslow, 'St. George man among 19 pardoned by Bush', Deseret News, Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2008). According to Deseret News reports from the time (Matthew S. Brown, Two S. Utah Men Get Probation for Digging Up Ruins', Deseret News Oct. 7, 1992), in 1991 David Lane Woolsey and co-defendant Jimmy G. Barney had been seen by hikers digging in an ancient Indian ruin at Boulder Creek near Escalante. Both men ultimately pleaded guilty. The prosecution came at a time when authorities were cracking down on archaeological thefts and Federal prosecutors had sought to send a "significant message" about a trend of archaeological site vandalism by artefact hunters.Woolsey was convicted of an aiding and abetting violation of the federal Archaeological Resources Protection Act . The penalty could have been two years in prison, but U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Greene settled on a sentence of three years probation and 100 hours of community service (they also seem to have had their vehicles confiscated). "I know I done wrong," Woolsey said. "But I feel grateful I got a second chance". A federal felony conviction stays with a person for life and strips a person of his or her right to possess a weapon or vote. Woolsey said he wanted the pardon so he could get his gun rights back and go hunting with his son. He also felt he had been discriminated against on the job market because of his record. Apparently the pardon had been sought by his wife about two and a half years ago, filling out an application for clemency on the Internet.

Among others pardoned by the US President at the same time are people convicted of such crimes as arms smuggling, possession of an unregistered firearm and cocaine distribution, conspiracy to harbor and transport illegal aliens.

While one sympathises with Mr Wooley's plight, this pardon gives out the wrong message to the public about the seriousness of the prblem of the looting of the archaeological heritage for collectables. The media are silent about what happened to Mr Barney.

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