Friday 29 April 2011

More Guilty Pleas in Four Corners Looting Case

Three Utah residents have pleaded guilty in a federal court on Friday to trafficking stolen artifacts from federal and tribal lands in southern Utah. Reece Laws, Tad Kreth and Joseph Smith, Blanding residents, pleaded guilty, "taking American Indian artifacts from public lands". The mere formality of sentencing is set for July 18.

"A federal prosecutor says an indictment for a fourth defendant, Meredith Smith, will be dismissed if she doesn't commit any crimes for next six months".

Chi-Chi Zhang, 'Several Utahns plead guilty to American Indian artifact looting' Associated Press, April 29, 2011

Back in July last year (San Juan Record - 'Antiquities cases work way through court system '): "To date, there have been no trials related to the charges, but several are planned. An October trial date has been set for Blanding residents Joseph M. Smith, Meredith Smith, Tad Kreth, Reece Laws and Brandon Laws before Judge Stewart".

These cases had a bit of a 'twist' in them in that for some months there was some wrangling about the value of the objects involved and whether or not Arizona antiquity dealer Dace Hyatt could testify for the defence in the case (the prosecution argued he could not be a court expert as he had no archaeological training, and had earlier been quoted in newspapers calling the Operation Cerberus 'entrapment'), the court decided he could testify (Artifacts Dealer is an 'Expert' Says Federal Judge). The defence of the accused argued that establishment of the monetary value of the items concerned was important because there is a minimum value in federal law for felony charges. Loss of archaeological value of course cannot be measured.

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