Thursday, November 24, 2016

California Doctor Sentenced to Probation for Removing Artifacts and Archeological Resources From Federal Parks After Significant Cooperation and Payment of Restitution

U.S. Park Service Photo of someone who tried to take petroglyph 
Federal regulations govern wildlife, national parks, endangered species, and we have seen individuals get felony charges for violating these laws and regulations while they pursue their hobbies. 

One of our cases years ago involved a physician who obtained fish from PennySaver and local shops and took care of them in his own home tanks -- but it turned out the fish was on an endangered species list and he was not aware of it. We were able to stop any consequence to the physician's license but the licensing boards are stricter now. A recent case involving a physician shows how a hobby or interest can lead to federal charges and a conviction.

On November 11, 2016, Dr. Jonathan Cornelius Bourne of Mammoth Lakes was sentenced to two years of probation, a $40,000 fine, and $249,372 in restitution for felony violations of the Archeological Resources Protection Act. Additionally, Dr. Bourne is banned from entering federal public lands for recreational purposes while on probation. This sentence follows his guilty plea on August 15, 2016, to unauthorized transportation of archeological resources and unauthorized excavation, removal, damage, or defacement of archeological resources. 

According to court documents, Dr. Bourne had been collecting artifacts and archeological resources since 1994. He documented each item and has voluntarily turned over to the government an estimated 20,000 archeological items that he had collected from public lands. 

This voluntary turn over and preservation of the artifacts as well as the payment of almost $250,000 in restitution for their curation is probably one of the reasons that the sentence was probationary even though the facts showed a long time pattern of activity. This is part of acceptance of responsibility and remorse as well as rehabilitation.

According to the plea agreement, on October 14, 2010, Dr. Bourne altered a small prehistoric site, cremation site, and burial cairns in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest in Nevada. He admitted to having removed glass trade beads and transported them to his home in Mammoth Lakes. On January 10, 2011, Dr. Bourne altered a large prehistoric site in Death Valley National Park and removed a tool made from a bighorn sheep horn and three incised stone tablets, which were later found in his home.

In sentencing Dr. Bourne, U.S. District Judge O’Neill stated that the damage caused by Dr. Bourne could not be undone no matter what sentence was imposed. He further stated that this case highlighted the importance of educating others as to the significance of the sacred Native American cultural resources and the protection of the Native American cultural sites. Death Valley is the homeland of the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe. 

This was a very fair sentence from a criminal justice standpoint although many argued for a higher sentence. This also shows what can be done from a restitution and voluntary cooperation end in order to obtain a good "damage control" result in a difficult case with lots of evidence and counts. 

Posted by Tracy Green, Esq., Green and Associates, Attorneys at Law
Office: 213-233-2261


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