Thursday, March 19, 2009

Murphy guilty?

The International Herald Tribune reported Thursday that Nate Murphy is expected to accept a guilty charge and plea bargain on the federal charges of fossil theft, according to court documents filed on Wednesday. Murphy faced up to ten years in prison if convicted.

snippet of story by The Associated Press:

"Murphy's case offers a rare glimpse into the illicit underside of paleontology, in which wealthy collectors are willing to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for rare or unusual specimens. This weekend, a 150-million-year-old dryosaurus fossil taken from private land in Wyoming is expected to be auctioned for up to $500,000 in New York through the I.M. Chait Gallery.

Josh Chait, who runs the gallery, said the sales create financial incentives for exploration that can lead to groundbreaking discoveries.

Federal law generally prevents the removal of bones from public lands without a research permit. But the remoteness of many prime fossil grounds in Utah, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and other western states makes enforcement difficult.

"There's probably somebody out stealing fossils from federal land in Montana today, and we don't know about it because there's not enough law enforcement to patrol all of these sites," said Martin McAllister, a private archaeological investigator from Missoula.

A sweeping public lands bill approved Thursday by the U.S. Senate contains penalties that specifically target fossil theft from federal land, which paleontologists have sought for years. The bill now heads to the House of Representatives for final action." [link]

Thanks to Rebecca for these recent updates on this story. You can read the progression of this story on the blog here.

International Herald Tribune story © the Associated Press, all else © ReBecca K. Hunt-Foster

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