A defendant in a controversial federal case in Utah against people accused of illegally trafficking in stolen American Indian artifacts pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge Tuesday.
Brandon Laws originally had pleaded not guilty and denied that he tried to sell shell and bone necklaces and other American Indian items to a government informant. Â Laws admitted before U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart in Salt Lake City that he took the artifacts in March 2008 from the Figure 8 ruin in San Juan County, the Associated Press reported.
Three people connected to the case have committed suicide, including the informant.
More than 100 agents, including an FBI SWAT team, participated in the June 2009 roundup of 26 individuals who allegedly looted American Indian artifacts from public land. Although some agents reportedly had drawn guns, the raids were conducted without violence, except for one suspect who claimed his toe had been broken.
Utah officials — including the stateâ€™s U.S. senators — sharply criticized the raid, which unleashed tensions between state and local and federal officials.
The cases of about half of the individuals charged in connection with the June 2009 raid have yet to be resolved.