A California man who is accused of stealing Native American artifacts is facing charges that carry penalties of up to 98 years in prison, although it is expected that federal prosecutors will seek fewer than 20 years. The 59-year-old man, an anesthesiologist, is allegedly pictured in photos digging an artifact from a High Sierra glacier.
The indictment says that U.S. Forest Service agents found almost 30,000 items in the man's home such as etched stone tablet and glass beads. One archaeologist working on the case said that this type of theft damages archaeological records and that some Native Americans may also consider it sacrilege. Native Americans have also argued that it endangers the study of their culture.
Among the charges that the man is facing are counts of unauthorized excavation, defacement, possession of stolen government property, injury to government property and unlawful transportation of archaeological resources. According to one of the man's attorneys, the man had attempted to remove a piece of wood because he believed it might have historical significance.
A person who is facing serious theft charges in a case such as this one may wish to consider a plea bargain. In this type of an arrangement, a defendant pleads guilty to lesser or fewer charges in exchange for a lighter sentence. The case does not go to trial. Some criminal defense attorneys advise their clients to go this route if it appears that the prosecution has a strong case. However, another possibility may be having a case dismissed on a technicality. If investigators have violated a defendant's rights at some stage or failed to follow the correct procedure, the case could be dismissed.
Source: "California doctor indicted in theft of Native American artifacts," UPI, Tomas Monzon, Oct. 5, 2015