Colorado couple charged in artifacts case lost everything, attorney says

Published: Thursday, Aug. 11 2011 6:00 p.m. MDT

Marie Crites patted her soon-to-be former husband on the arm as she walked to the podium for her own sentencing. Mauro said he's seen people stand before a judge, unfazed, but that was not this client. In two years, he's seen the toll this case has taken.

With her deep, sorrowful alto voice halting, she spoke to the judge. Marie Crites spoke of the respect she has for the Native American people and the love she has of their culture. 

"I am very profoundly sorry for my association with this situation," she said, noting that she's spent decades of her life restoring artifacts. "I'm sorry for the pain this caused."

She was sentenced to 30 days of unsupervised probation.

Benson expressed sincere regret at what has happened to the couple since the charges were filed. He said they "seem like nice people" and commended them for accepting their guilt.

"I hope you don't make more of this than needs to be made of it," he said. "You know what kind of people you are. I hope you don't take it too hard."

Three people have taken their lives in the time since the federal operation ended:  Blanding doctor James Redd, Steven Shrader of New Mexico and the government informant, Ted Gardiner.

Bugden said after the hearing that the government was trying to send a message and he understands that. He even agrees with the principle of that message, but in Crites' case, they were simply "too harsh."

McKelvie didn't oppose the probation recommendations from defense attorneys, citing the Crites' age and health. 

If not for the plea agreement, Bugden said Vern Crites may have gone to trial in an effort to keep his property and prove his ownership. But the government only offered the plea agreement to the Crites as a couple, putting Vern Crites in the position of having to protect his wife by avoiding trial, according to Bugden.

"Mr. Crites wouldn't have denied he was guilty," Bugden clarified. "He never challenged what he did. We never claimed Gardiner entrapped him. Mr. Crites made a bad decision, but it's had an enormous toll."

"People don't understand how enormously stressful it is if you're a decent, patriotic person having to face felonies, fines, imprisonment," he said. "It meant financial ruin for these people. It destroyed their lives." 

E-mail: emorgan@desnews.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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