Overkill or justice? Costly 5-year-old artifacts case nets no prison time and 3 suicides, but retrieves Native American treasures and raises awareness

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  • truearrow CASPER, WY
    Sept. 27, 2011 12:41 p.m.

    Mukkake-you should read the inditements. Most on line. There was only one site where gravedigging was alleged. That "skull" was obviously planted-read The Source: the inside story... SLT mar.4 2010. No one condons grave digging although Archaeologists did and do it all the time. Read their books. What is against the law is entrapment. The actions of the feds in this case was Nazi Germany revisited. As was proven in court-not trials there were none-the cases were at most misdemeanors and the punishment was more than just.

  • Mukkake Salt Lake City, UT
    Sept. 26, 2011 3:52 p.m.

    My final comments on this article:

    The people who took these artifacts, or the people who condone their behavior as being "harmless", are racists, anti-government nut jobs, and anti-intellectual backwoods country folk. You have a lot in common with the Neo-Nazis in Northern Idaho and the Klansman in the South. Hope you enjoy the company.

  • RanchHand Huntsville, UT
    Sept. 26, 2011 2:26 p.m.

    To those who think this is "mo big deal":

    What if the theives had dug up your mom, dad, aunt or uncle?

    You would want them punished.

  • payara OREM, UT
    Sept. 26, 2011 2:21 p.m.

    Is this the United States of America or Nazi Germany.

  • truearrow CASPER, WY
    Sept. 26, 2011 12:22 p.m.

    Most of the cases involved entrapment as the people involved had no interest in selling the items until Gardiner offered extreme prices. In many of the cases Gardiner lied and it has been shown in the records provided by the govt. Museums simply have thousands upon thousands of pieces in their basements so they do not put any TAG on their artifacts.Article after article shows the govt. does a very poor job identifying these artifacts and protecting them. Many of the artifacts conficated were totally legal and should be returned to the owner rather than being lost in govt. basements.

  • DeltaFoxtrot West Valley, UT
    Sept. 26, 2011 11:41 a.m.

    Agents of law enforcement coercing citizens into breaking the law is called entrapment, and there are supposed to be protections against that kind of conduct by government agents.

    Be wary people, big brother is everywhere now and if he wants to ruin your life he will, legal, illegal, justified or otherwise.

  • Let's be real Salt Lake City, UT
    Sept. 26, 2011 9:19 a.m.

    First of all, shame on those that participated in any "digs" and other illegal activities. Next, it is stated that, it appears, one of the federal agents coerced the team into digging. If, what we call a friend, continues to hound you, normally one would just go ahead and do it after a while if one is of a weak mind. People are commiting suicide and other atrocities because of the pressure cooker the feds put them in. They were the fall guys and the ones that will get the lesson taught to. Lastly, again, shame on those that dug up relics and other items that were not theirs. Also, shame on the feds for overstepping their bounds and creating an "overkill" of gargantuan proportions.

  • Happy Valley Heretic Orem, UT
    Sept. 26, 2011 8:54 a.m.

    cedarpost said: this is absolutely ridiculous. to run a sting for 3 years when they could have been turned in the first dig by the undercover government informant. also to ruin so many peoples lives over some things in the dirt that in all reality are worth nothing is just insane.

    Then you'll see nothing wrong with looking for pioneer graves to dig up just for kicks?
    In all Reality (something that eludes you) "worth nothing" turns out to be hundreds of thousands of dollars, golly that's just insane.

    I agree with Mukkake's comment, why do people defends this as "acceptable behavior."

    Sept. 26, 2011 8:30 a.m.

    It's not a property rights case at all. It's plain and simple grave robbing. Tell me where your grandparents are buried and let me dig them up and take your Grandfathers wedding ring or your Grandmothers dress. We don't rob graves, no matter how old or whose in civil societies.

  • A voice of Reason Salt Lake City, UT
    Sept. 26, 2011 4:26 a.m.

    Howard Beal, rok,

    no one has any claims to any artifacts whatsoever, imo. ALTHOUGH, the remains arguably one does. There are always two sides to an argument. The Westminster Abbey point is certainly an interesting one. Maybe we should try it? lol, no.

  • A voice of Reason Salt Lake City, UT
    Sept. 26, 2011 4:15 a.m.

    Inmate to other inmate... Why are you in? 'I dug a hole'

  • rok San Diego, CA
    Sept. 25, 2011 10:36 p.m.

    @Howard Beal. My comment was somewhat facetious, but those are in delineated spaces and actual secured buildings with ownership. Someone finds a pot buried in the ground that's not part of a grave, and was just something that someone dropped along the way and it becomes a federal crime to find it. The current tribes like Navajo can't lay claim to all artifacts.

  • Howard Beal Provo, UT
    Sept. 25, 2011 9:11 p.m.

    To the commenter that says it's fair game. Go to Westminister Abbey in London and start opening up the crypts of Henry VIII or Elizabeth etc. and see if the British authorities say it's fair game, it's been over 200 years since they died.

  • I Choose Freedom Atlanta, GA
    Sept. 25, 2011 8:55 p.m.

    "That's what they did in (Nazi) Germany."

    Welcome to the USA, where the people belong to the government.

  • DN Subscriber Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Sept. 25, 2011 8:20 p.m.

    @ johnbh99 11:30 AM

    There is already a law "NAGPRA"- Native American Grave Repatriation Act- which requires all museums to hand over any Indian remains they hold to the appropriate tribes.

    I believe it has already been complied with by most museums.

  • Mukkake Salt Lake City, UT
    Sept. 25, 2011 7:55 p.m.

    MPS, archeology, much less science in general, doesn't seem to be your strong suit, so I'll try to explain it to you in under 200 words:

    A lot of people care: Native Americans, scientists, historians, public officials, as well most educated people.

    The damage is severe.

    There aren't that many pristine sites left throughout the Southwest. Each site is individual and irreplaceable. These sites represent dozens of distinct cultures and distinct time periods, a single site may be all that remains of a specific group at a specific time. Even when sites are similar, both are needed to establish what practices were commonplace between the two, and what were unique to each site.

    Finally, museums and parks are mostly for tourists, not scientists. What you call "preserved" is just a context-free artifact sitting behind glass, and is only there to get tourists to buy replicated junk from the gift shop.

    The loss caused by gravediggers is immense. Barring the invention of a time machine, these sites, undisturbed, are often the only information we have on who these people were, where the were from, what they did, and what happened to them; and each gravedigger destroys it irreparably.

  • skeptic Phoenix, AZ
    Sept. 25, 2011 5:03 p.m.

    Perhaps some of the posters would feel different about respecting other cultures history if theifs were to dig up early Mormon grave sites for souvenirs.

  • Mukkake Salt Lake City, UT
    Sept. 25, 2011 3:21 p.m.

    These people deserve no more respect than any other criminal. Just because you're old doesn't make you any less of a criminal, just because you're a doctor doesn't make you and less of a criminal, just because your brother is a cop doesn't make you any less of a criminal.

    BLM didn't kill anyone and I'm sure they sleep a lot better now than they did 5 years ago, knowing that the grave diggers aren't ransacking our national heritage anymore.

    Remember, nobody died except the cowards. Cowards that killed themselves. I hope their accomplices can sleep at night.

  • MPS Kirtland, NM
    Sept. 25, 2011 3:09 p.m.

    This whole incident has been overkill and is no way is justice. And lets get real--Yes the artifacts are "worthless to the archaeological record", but who really cares. And I do not think the damage to the archaeological record is that severe. There are many PRISTINE archaeological sites scattered over the southwest. These sites are not yet excavated and are waiting for a future time. Additionally, visit many of the numerous National Monuments, National Parks, and you can see the historical and cultural artifacts preserved.

  • ParkCityAggie Park City, Ut
    Sept. 25, 2011 2:25 p.m.

    And the moral of the story still stands: It's wrong to steel artifacts from public lands, and its wrong for local law enforcement to ignore it. Case closed.

  • Cats Somewhere in Time, UT
    Sept. 25, 2011 2:06 p.m.

    It doesn't require a sledge hammer to smash an ant.

    Overzealous, excessive law enforcement can have very far reaching and tragic consequences. No one condones violating the law. But, this should have been handled much differently.

    These people were lured in by inordantly high prices. Some of them really needed the money. Moreover, some of them had pieces that had been in their families for many years, long before it was ever illegal to possess them.

    The Feds are now trying to justify themselves for overstepping what reasonable people would have done. 150 federal officers? That's absurd. There was never any threat of violence by any of these people.

    These people should have been treated with respect, received fines and that should have been the end of it. There isn't one artifact that was worth anyone's life.

    I hope these BLM officials can sleep at night.

  • cjb Bountiful, UT
    Sept. 25, 2011 11:38 a.m.

    When I was a scout, we came across a bunch of broken pottery in the hills above Bountiful. At the time we though it may be from the pioneers. Now I suspect it was Indian pottery.

    It was most likely illegal that we took much of it, we had no idea it was against the law at the time.

  • johnbh99 Thonotosassa, FL
    Sept. 25, 2011 11:30 a.m.

    I suppose that all the museums all over the world that have bones or artifacts in them should be required to repatriate the items to where ever they were first found. Who do these things belong to? The present descendants of native Americans? The "government"? Who would be the proper people to search the archaeological record? Could it be certain highly educated university types who believe that the world theirs and only theirs to plunder at the taxpayers expense?

  • stgjazzfan Saint George, UT
    Sept. 25, 2011 10:20 a.m.

    These artifacts all predate this country and its laws. Kind of funny how we steal, claim or conquer this land then punish our own for doing the same. What a cluster of reasoning. Our government hates competition.

  • rok San Diego, CA
    Sept. 25, 2011 9:30 a.m.

    If it's been in the ground more than 200 years, I say it's fair game.

  • cedarpost Washington, Utah
    Sept. 25, 2011 9:26 a.m.

    making such a big deal about things in the dirt is stupid. i know some feel digging is an attack on their heritage but for it to be a felony is just ridiculous

  • Petra Sanpete County, UT
    Sept. 25, 2011 8:57 a.m.

    Let's just say nearly everyone was wrong here. Those who dug up and sold these artifacts - wrong. Those who employed Gestapo tactics in arresting those who dug up and sold these artifacts - wrong. The government who now holds those artifacts, judging them useless to the "archeological record" - wrong.

    How to rectify it all? Can't be fully rectified - lives were lost, over things. How futile. But at least we can train law enforcement. And at last we can return all that was taken in these raids to the closest descendants of those who owned them. Even if we don't know who exactly that would be, we know it would not be European Americans. Let the tribal councils of those Native Americans currently living in the area meet and decide what to do with those items. To them, the "value" of those items is intrinsic to the items themselves, not something a museum decides.

  • homers Provo, UT
    Sept. 25, 2011 8:55 a.m.

    Sounds like Pat Shea is thinking about running for Senate again. That's twice in a week he has accused Hatch of meddling in sentencing with no apparent evidence to back it up. If Matheson doesn't run I wouldn't be surprised at all to see Shea go for it again. I think he is still smarting from the whoopin' Hatch gave him in 1994.

  • brightness Taylorsville, UT
    Sept. 25, 2011 8:53 a.m.

    There are consequences when you take someone elses property, the property taken by the grave diggers and robbers are sacred and non renewable, once theyre destroyed, theyre gone. This shows little or no respect for those buried there, these individuals was buried there for a reason and they are still a person, just like you and I, even if theyre 5 thousand years old. Most people believe that graves should not be dug up, it is a resting place, so sacred and blessed and to disturb this lasting resting place is morally wrong. This practice has been going on so long and the laws need to be strengthened and applied to the violators to discourage others not to become grave diggers and robbers.

  • Cats Somewhere in Time, UT
    Sept. 25, 2011 8:35 a.m.

    This was completely unwarranted, overzealous, excessive law enforcement that was probably prompted by Salazar's need to make a big splash. NOTHING could possibly justify that excessive behavior of the BLM.

    No one condones lawbreaking. But, it should NEVER have been handled in this way. These people were entrapped by the over-priced offers from Gardner. Many of these artifacts had been in families for generations--long before it was illegal to collect them. Many of them really needed the money and were enticed by the excessively high prices Gardner offered. Some of the artifacts weren't even illegal.

    I'm sorry Gardner committed suicide, but he had good reason to feel guilty.

    These people should have gotten a good talking to and a fine. That's all. No artifact on earth was worth the lives that have been destroyed by this operation. This whole thing was way overblown and those reponsible are now trying to justify themselves.

  • DN Subscriber Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Sept. 25, 2011 8:27 a.m.

    Was this the best use of our federal tax dollars to conduct a prolonged investigation and prosecution over these relics?

    Our borders are meaningless, and tens of thoudsands of criminals stream across BLM land in Arizona, where they post signs warning of dangers to American citizens who enter the BLM lands. Many of those trespassers are hauling drugs into the U.S. and the dangers or rape, robbery or murder to those crossing illegally are well known. Terrorists will likely enter this way (if they have not already) as well.

    Yet, our BLM leaders insist that punishing pot hunters is the higher priority.

    And, they use a massive SWAT team takedown to nab the mostly elderly and otherwise law abiding "evil criminals" in remote corners of the state.

    Does anyone else see anything wrong with this policy, and the judgment and motives of those setting the priorities?

    Frankly, the horrors of some pots "rotting in museum storage areas with a tag...Source Unknown" as opposed to being cherished in private collections of people who are the modern inhabitants honoring their predecessors does not seem like it justifies any waste of federal law enforcement resources.

    Abuse of power?

  • cedarpost Washington, Utah
    Sept. 25, 2011 7:58 a.m.

    this is absolutely ridiculous. to run a sting for 3 years when they could have been turned in the first dig by the undercover government informant. also to ruin so many peoples lives over some things in the dirt that in all reality are worth nothing is just insane.

  • liberal larry salt lake City, utah
    Sept. 25, 2011 7:08 a.m.

    Since when did the DNews decide that it was time to start giving people who violate federal laws so much sympathy? It is morally and legally wrong to violate archeological sites, on federal land, and violators should be prosecuted period.

  • wwookie Payson, UT
    Sept. 25, 2011 6:56 a.m.

    Só the undercover guy was the one insisting they dig? No wonder no one went to jail

  • MyChildrensKeeper Taylorsville, UT
    Sept. 25, 2011 4:51 a.m.

    If government and police would spend less time, years, trying to prove the truth is a lie it wouldn't take so long. They must learn to work with what they have as real facts and real evidence they do poses and stop trying to create a million scenarios of possibilities they might get some justice and satisfaction in what they are doing.

  • Mukkake Salt Lake City, UT
    Sept. 24, 2011 11:42 p.m.

    This is the way it had to be done, all because local law enforcement had not only FAILED, but actually enabled this irreversible, criminal behavior.

    The artifacts are now absolutely worthless to the archeological record. They will rot in museums with a tagline similar to "Source Unknown".

    I hope residents of South Eastern Utah are afraid of the US government now. Lawlessness is still lawlessness, even with a facade of modern comforts.