Thursday, 17 September 2009

Looting is "justifiable" in Utah: Judge Waddoups supports collectors' rights

Yesterday Sept. 16, two prominent Blanding residents Jeanne Redd, 59, and daughter Jericca Redd, 37, walked out of a court free after having pleaded guilty in federal court to illegal trafficking in American Indian artifacts. This was the first sentencing to be handed down as the result of a 2½-year ("Action Cerberus") investigation into grave robbing and archaeological artefact thefts in the Four Corners region which had cost the taxpayer several hundred thousand dollars. The two had admitted to multiple felonies for excavating, possessing and selling prehistoric seed jars, pottery and personal ornaments. As part of the plea, Jeanne Redd had agreed to give up all of the artifacts in her collection, surrendering 112 boxes of artifacts, including reportedly human remains.

Jericca Redd, admitted to three felonies for digging up a seed jar, a vase and a pottery vessel in 2008, on the Navajo reservation.
Jeanne Redd had pleaded guilty to seven felonies: two counts of violating the Archaeological Resources Protection Act, two counts of theft of government property and three counts of theft of American Indian tribal property. Each carries potential fines of $250,000 and up to 10 years in prison.

Utah Division of Indian Affairs Director Forrest Cuch had said before the sentencing that he hoped the guilty pleas would help prevent future lootings. He said: "This is an opportunity for them [Jericca and Jeanne Redd] to be accountable for their actions [...] It's the right action to take. I hope that they can learn from this, and it will send a message to all other prospective looters that this is a very serious offence".

Prosecutors had sought a minimum 18 months in prison for Jeanne. Instead she received leniency when a U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups rejected the government's request for imprisonment, instead Jeanne got three years of probation and a $2,000 fine. That is about as much as many of the defendents were paying for a single artefact. The fine is derisive, the cost of an old pair of sandals. Jericca Redd was sentenced to two years of probation and no fine on three similar felony counts.
"This is a community where this kind of conduct" is commonly tolerated and "has been justified for a number of years," Waddoups is reported to have said. "This is a woman who has spent her life as a member of her community." I think most collectors of looted artefacts live as "members of their community". A community where grave robbing and looting of archaeological sites is accepted maybe, but JUSTIFIED Your Honour? What on earth are you talking about?
Sadly his online resume seems to be unavailable at the moment, so we cannot find out which American centre of higher education turned out an individual with such 'enlightened' views on the cultural heritage.
It would seem that the two people (James Redd and Steven Shrader) who committed suicide to escape punishment as a result of being accused of similar crimes really should have waited to see what kind of derisive sentences would be handed down by Judge Waddoups. After all there is breaking the law and "breaking the law (but it does not matter)". If the rest of the cases are going to be treated in the same way, what a waste of public money and a lot of people's hard work (and risking serious danger) the investigators of "Action Cerberus" must feel that was.

There is no record of any "collectors-rights" advocates in the courtroom, but even so Judge Waddoups seems to have decided these ladies had done nothing particularly wrong, giving a clear OK signal to looters all over the United States. Right guys, shovels out and grab yerself another piece of the Injun past. Maybe drop Judge Waddoups a line and invite him along with you?

See Patty Henez: Redds dodge prison in artifact sentencing , Salt lake City Tribune 16.09.09.
PS. What happened to the investigations of the computer of the Redds that it was suggested at the time might indicate they were involved in some "pyramid scheme" (reported in the Salt Lake Tribune and other sources back in June)? Is this still an ongoing investigation, or was this a false trail thrown out by federal sources to direct attention away from the role of the artefacts raid in Dr James Redd's June suicide? If so, was a statement later issued clearing Mrs Redd's name from these accusations? All very odd.

Photo: Judge Waddoups, who thinks looting of archaeological sites is "justified".


John Muccigrosso said...

Anonymous said...

It is really an extraordinarily lenient sentence, but note that the 18 months that the prosecutors were asking for is hardly proportional to the severity of the offenses either. I still suspect that there's a background deal here in which the Redds get off easy in exchange for helping with the prosecutions of others. It could even just be by giving up all those boxes of artifacts, which will surely be useful in filling in the blanks elsewhere in the investigation, but I think there's more to it than that.

Obviously the judge wouldn't be part of any of this, so the fact that he gave an even lighter sentence than recommended still speaks poorly of him.

Paul Barford said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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