Blanding man gets probation in Native American artifacts theft case
SALT LAKE CITY — A man who admitted to taking a bead from Native American ruins in San Juan County will not serve time in prison.
U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart sentenced Brandon F. Laws to 24 months probation for a misdemeanor charge of trafficking in stolen artifacts Monday. Laws, 40, also must surrender all other tribal antiquities in his possession and is barred from visiting federal lands during his probation.
Though a bead is small, Stewart noted that its removal "was part of a lifestyle that Mr. Laws and others had engaged in that needed to be addressed."
Asked by the judge if he learned his lesson, Laws replied, "Yes sir."
Laws, a Blanding construction worker, was among 26 people arrested in Utah, Colorado and New Mexico after a two-year sting operation in the Four Corners region. Four others named in the same indictment as Laws are scheduled for a jury trial in February.
In exchange for an earlier guilty plea, prosecutors dropped two felony charges that could have meant prison time for Laws. He was originally indicted for allegedly stealing and selling two bone beads, a shell necklace with a clay pendant, two drills and other pendants which were excavated or removed from Indian lands.
Laws had argued the items came from private land and the transaction was legal.
Federal prosecutor Richard McKelvie did not recommend jail time because Laws spent six months behind bars for violating conditions of his release prior to the hearing.
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