Six and a half years in prison.
That was the sentence handed down Friday to Earl K. Shumway, Utah's most notorious pothunter."If anything, that's a lenient sentence," said U.S. District Judge David Winder.
But it's the largest prison term ever given in the federal Archaeological Resource Protection Act of 1979, said Scott M. Matheson Jr., the publicity-shy U.S. attorney for Utah, who called a rare press conference to discuss his office's victory.
"Mr. Shumway caused irreparable damage to our precious cultural resources. He committed crimes against our heritage, environment and future generations and has been sentenced accordingly," Matheson said.
During a two-hour hearing Friday before chief U.S. District Judge David Winder, prosecutor Wayne Dance painted Shumway as an unrepentant, conscienceless thief who displays arrogance to the law and to Indian society - all for profit.
"He's an uncommon thief," said Dance. "He steals the irreplaceable . . . He steals culture. He steals history and this nation's heritage . . . He believes he has some special right to destroy, loot and plunder our national heritage."
Shumway was first convicted of archaeological crimes in a high-profile case in 1984. But a federal judge at that time placed Shumway on probation, much to the chagrin of the law-enforcement com-mun-i-ty.
Speaking in his own defense, Shumway, 38, said Dance's characterization of him, which relied partly on media interviews Shumway did in the mid-1980s, may have been true 10 years ago but is not true today.
"When I made those (interviews), I was a young man. I do not feel like that now . . . I'm not a thief. I'm a family man," said Shumway, a native of Blanding who was living in Moab before being arrested earlier this year on seven felonies relating to two different cases.
A jury in August found Shumway guilty of two archaeological violations and two counts of damaging government property in connection with his 1991 helicopter-assisted looting of an Anasazi cliff dwelling, called Dop-Ki Cave, in Canyonlands National Park. The Anasazis lived in Utah from about A.D. 300 to 1300. Among other things, Shumway dug up an Indian infant and stole the ceremonial blanket the infant was wrapped in. These are acts Indians consider extremely sacrilegious.
The jury also convicted Shumway of damaging Horse Rock Ruin in the Manti LaSal National Forest.
On Friday, Shumway maintained his innocence to these crimes. That irked the judge, who criticized Shumway for not accepting responsibility for his actions.
In the other case, Shumway pleaded guilty in September as charged to violating the federal Archaeological Resource Protection Act, damaging government property and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Those charges revolve around an October 1994 incident in which Shumway and an accomplice, Peter Verchick, dug holes in alcoves once occupied by Anasazis. The alcoves are located on Cedar Mesa in San Juan County.
Verchick, 25, has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor archaeological charge and faces sentencing before Winder on Feb. 1.
In arguing for an enhanced sentence, Dance tried to get the judge to consider the "vulnerable victim" status of the Indian infant; Shumway's criminal past and failure to reform himself; the serious nature of the offense; and his use of the firearm.
Winder agreed on the vulnerable victim and criminal past enhancements.
He said the digging up of the infant was "the grossest affront to our Native American citizens," adding that Shumway has made a way of life out of pothunting on government land and probably still thinks he has the right to do it.
Wil Numkena, director of the Utah Division of Indian Affairs, praised Winder's ruling. He said that in the past, "these cases have not been dealt with in as harsh a manner as they should."
"It's really important for the public to understand that any violation of Indian gravesites needs to cease," Numkena said.
Cracking down on archaeological crimes
U.S. attorney Scott M. Matheson said Friday his office is devoting "significant prosecutorial resources" to enforcing the Archaeological Resource Protection Act of 1979.
In addition to the Shumway case, prosecutor Wayne Dance has pending cases against:
- Scott Timpson, who faces a trial Jan. 8 on 10 counts relating to the destruction and excavation of Polar Mesa Cave in Grand County in 1990 and 1991.
- Gregory Lathrom and Todd McKee, who are charged with nine counts of ARPA violations, also in connection with destruction and excavation of Polar Mesa Cave in 1990 and 1991. Their case has not been set for trial.
Those cases barely scratch the surface of archaeological crimes, however, said Marty Phillips, chief of law enforcement for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. Hundreds of archaeological sites are disturbed or looted every year, he said.