Tuesday 30 March 2010

Two More Guilty Pleas in Four Corners Artefact Case

Two of the defendents in the Four Corners Artefacts case pleaded guilty Monday before U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball to illegally trafficking in American Indian artifacts and stealing government property. Each faces a maximum of 12 years in prison and maximum potential fines of $500,000 each. Brent Bullock and Tammy Shumway, both residents of Moab, had initially pleaded not guilty to several felony charges. Sentencing is set for 7th July. After the hearing, federal officials declined to say whether they expect further guilty pleas in the case.
Bullock, 61, sold several ancient Indian items to an undercover operative in 2007, including a blanket fragment for $2,000 and a hoe- like tool for $500, according to court documents. He also offered to sell several ceramic figurines taken from U.S. Bureau of Land Management land. Bullock said he wanted to sell the items because he was in debt, according to a search warrant affidavit. Investigators said Bullock acknowledged to the informant that the items came from public land in Utah but filled out paperwork saying they were from private land in Colorado.

Shumway, who introduced Bullock to the informant, was charged because the 40-year-old woman aided and abetted the deals and signed a falsified paper about the items' origin as a witness, federal officials said.

In U.S. District Court on Monday, Bullock and Shumway acknowledged they knew the items had been illegally dug up from public land in Utah. As part of a plea deal, they each pleaded guilty to one count of trafficking in stolen artifacts and theft of government property. Prosecutors agreed to seek a reduced sentence. [...] Bullock's attorney, Earl Xaiz, said his client was never into artifact collecting for the money and hadn't planned to sell any of them before he was approached by the government informant.
Bullock had reportedly displayed the blanket scrap, fire board and digging tool at the centre of this case in a frame on his living-room wall where anyone could see them, but Bullock had not dug them up himself. His decision to sell them was a financial issue: "He was introduced to someone who was looking for things to buy" said his lawyer. The figures that he also offered to sell Gardiner did not turn up in a search of Bullock's house.

These were among the earliest to be resolved following one of the USA's largest investigations into artefact looting on public and tribal lands in the Southwest. Of the 26 indicted on June 10th, two defendants committed suicide shortly after the charges were announced. Two others, a mother and daughter from Blanding, pleaded guilty and were sentenced to probation in September. The State's informant Ted Gardiner died March 1 from a self-inflicted gunshot after a standoff with police in a Salt Lake City suburb. This has apparently delayed the trial of antiquities dealer Robert Knowlton. Trials for several other defendants are scheduled for this spring and summer.

Patty Henetz "
Two plead guilty in artifacts trafficking" Salt Lake Tribune 30th March 2010.
Mike Stark (The Associated Press)
2 Utahns plead guilty in sweeping artifacts case Mar 29 2010.
Fox News Video here:
2 suspects in Utah artifacts case take plea deals
Tammy Shumway is apparently the widow of Earl Shumway, convicted 15 years ago of looting graves for artifacts to sell.

UPDATE: Derek Fincham writes (this is also featured on the new DePaul's Art and Cultural Heritage Legal Society blog):
Neither of these defendants will likely receive anything close to the statutory maximum. That is because when a defendant enters into a plea deal, they do so in most cases to achieve a recommendation from prosecutors on sentencing; which will often fall far below the maximum sentences. This should not be construed as authorities in the United States not taking these crimes seriously — rather a reflection of the general criminal procedures when plea agreements are reached.
He also fills in some of the details for his readers on notorious antiquities looter Earl Shumway:
Shumway became a national figure in the 1980's, who boasted that he began looting at three years old with his father. He sold a large collection of over thirty prehistoric baskets and sold them for a great deal. Though he was prosecuted for selling those baskets, he cooperated with authorities and only received probation. He went right back to looting, using a helicopter and even lookouts to avoid authorities. He boasted to the media that he could never be apprehended. Though he was not caught in the act of looting, authorities did secure a conviction using DNA evidence found on Mountain Dew soda cans he left in the areas he looted. In 1995 he received a 5-year prison sentence which sent a message that Federal agents and prosecutors took this kind of crime seriously.

Earl Shumway: here (New York Times), here (DNA on cigarette butt), here , picture of him leaving court, and here.

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