Posts Tagged ‘Indian artifacts raid’
Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

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.  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 state’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.

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Monday, March 22nd, 2010

The suicide of an undercover operative may give about two dozen defendants in a controversial American Indian artifacts case the chance to quash the primary evidence in the government’s case against them, The Salt Lake Tribune reported Sunday.

Ted Dan Gardiner shot himself earlier this month, becoming the third person connected with the cases to commit suicide. During a two-year probe, he recorded thousands of hours of undercover video of people who allegedly sold illegally obtained American Indian artifacts. Most of the defendants are from the Four Corners area of Utah near the borders of Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona.

But the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment, which gives criminal defendants the right to question witnesses, may put the video evidence in jeopardy.

“The premise of the Sixth Amendment is we have to subject the accuser to the crucible of cross-examination,” Kent Hart, executive director of the Utah Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, told the newspaper. “This really is a hot issue in the law right now.”

Defendant Brandon Laws has filed a motion to throw out the video evidence, which is key to the government’s case. U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart is slated to hear arguments on his motion Thursday.

Prosecutors have said Gardiner’s suicide will not hold up the trials of the defendants who were charged after a government raid. The raid was sharply criticized by Utah officials, including the state’s senators.

More than 100 agents, including an FBI SWAT team, participated in the June 2009 roundup of people who allegedly plundered American Indian artifacts from public land. Although some agents reportedly had drawn guns, the raids were carried out without violence, except for one suspect who claimed his toe had been broken.

Monday, March 8th, 2010

The suicide of an undercover operative will not hold up trials against two dozen people arrested for selling illegally obtained American Indian artifacts, the Associated Press reported today.

Acting U.S. Attorney for Utah Carlie Christensen said she is certain that the cases will continue, according to the AP. U.S. Magistrate Samuel Alba set the first case for trial on May 3.

Ted Dan Gardiner shot himself on March 1, becoming the third person connected with the cases to commit suicide.

The Justice Department has been under fire for its handling of the two-year undercover probe that led to 26 indictments in the rural Four Corners area of Utah near the Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona borders.

More than 100 agents, including an FBI SWAT team, participated in the June 2009 roundup of people who allegedly plundered American Indian artifacts from public land. Although some agents reportedly had drawn their guns, the raids were carried out without violence, except for one suspect who claimed his toe had been broken.

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

An informant who aided authorities in a case against two dozen people arrested for selling illegally obtained American Indian artifacts became the third person connected to the case to apparently commit suicide, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.

Undercover operative Ted Dan Gardiner purportedly shot himself Monday, according to the AP. Two other defendants committed suicide last year.

The Justice Department has been under fire for its handling of the two-year undercover investigation that led to 26 indictments in the rural Four Corners area of Utah near the Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona borders.

More than 100 agents, including an FBI SWAT team, participated in the June 2009 roundup of people who allegedly plundered American Indian artifacts from public land. Among the 24 arrests were four suspects who were more than 70 years old. Although some agents reportedly had drawn their guns, the raids were carried out without violence, except for one suspect who alleged his toe had been broken.

On June 11, 60-year-old doctor James Redd, who had been arrested and charged in the raid, committed suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning. One week later, on June 19, news broke that defendant Steven L. Shrader, 56, also apparently committed suicide by shooting himself.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar (gov)

The Justice Department touted the Indian artifacts case in a June 10 news release, calling it “the nation’s largest investigation of archaeological and cultural artifact thefts.”

The DOJ dispatched several heavy hitters to accompany then-Utah U.S. Attorney Brett Tolman at a June 10 news conference in Salt Lake City on the American Indian artifacts case.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar was there, along with then-Deputy Attorney General David Ogden. Also at the news conference were the new Bureau of Indian Affairs head, Larry EchoHawk, a former Brigham Young University law professor, and the FBI Special Agent in Charge of the Utah office, Timothy Fuhrman.

Gardiner, the informant, approached the FBI in 2006 with an offer to use his online antiquities business, Gardiner Antiquities, to gather evidence against people he said were illegally trafficking in stolen artifacts from federal land, the Salt Lake Tribune reported on Wednesday.

But by the time of last June’s indictments, it was already known that he was the government informant, Gardiner told the Tribune. He began to worry about his safety, and the safety of his family.

After the raids, a Utah man with ties to white supremacists, Charles Denton Armstrong, told a witness he planned to tie the government informant to a tree and beat him with a baseball bat. Armstrong blamed the informant for the suicide of his doctor, Redd, according to reports.

Gardiner, who  had a history of substance abuse and mental problems, later began sleeping with a gun, according to the Tribune. “When the other two suicides occurred, it bothered him deeply,” his son, Dustin Gardiner, told the Tribune.

The raids and their aftermath caused political turmoil in Utah. Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff sent an angry letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder complaining that then-U.S. Attorney Tolman hadn’t coordinated the raids well with local authorities. The sheriff of San Juan County, Mike Lacy, whose brother was arrested in the raids, briefly considered last summer trying to bring state charges against the federal agents for what Lacy called their brutal tactics.

And last June 17, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) told Holder at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that the raids were a “dog and pony show” and that he was “questioning the motives of some of the higher-ups at Justice and at Interior.” Holder defended the raids, saying they were “felony arrests” carried out under standard operating procedures.

UPDATE: Gardiner’s suicide has thrown plans for a first trial into doubt, The Associated Press reports. Colorado U.S. Attorney David Gaouette told The AP that he is reviewing the evidence left for a trial that is scheduled to begin March 29. According to The AP Gaouette want to use surveillance video without live testimony from Gardiner.

Monday, July 13th, 2009

Federal authorities charged a former patient of the late Dr. James Redd with planning to retaliate against an informant in the Utah Indian artifacts case, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.

Charles Denton Armstrong said he intended “to take care of” a source that helped officials collect evidence in the theft and trafficking case by tying the person to a tree and beating him with a baseball bat, according to court documents obtained by The Tribune. He said in an affidavit that he didn’t want to kill the source, just “hurt him real bad,” The Tribune reported.

Redd was one of two defendants to commit suicide after 150 federal agents conducted a massive raid on Utahans alleged to have violated the Archaeological Resources Protection Act and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. The raid caused an uproar in Utah, with officials accusing the government of having used too much force, and U.S. Attorney Brett Tolman denying it. Redd’s widow, Jeanne Redd, and her daughter, Jerrica Redd, pleaded guilty last week to multiple theft and illegal trafficking charges.

Jeanne and James Redd had had a previous run-in with the law over Indian artifacts. The Redds paid the state of Utah $10,000 in 2003 after they were prosecuted for raiding an Indian burial ground. The charges against James Redd for the 1996 incident were eventually dropped, while his wife pleaded no contest to a reduced charge.

Monday, July 6th, 2009

Jeanne Redd and her daughter, Jerrica Redd, pleaded guilty this afternoon to multiple theft and illegal trafficking charges stemming from the Utah Indian artifacts raid last month.

Jeanne Redd was indicted during the June 10 raid that drew scorn many Utah offiicals, including Republican Sens. Orrin Hatch and Bob Bennett. Hatch said the raid was “unnecessary and brutal.” Physician James Redd, Jeanne Redd’s husband, committed suicide a day after he was indicted in the raid, followed by the suicide of another suspect a week later.

Read our previous reports on the raid here and here.

More than 150 federal agents were involved in the roundup of Utahans suspected of violating the Archaeological Resources Protection Act and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. The U.S. Attorney for Utah, Brett Tolman, had to issue a statement and hold a news conference to defend the federal actions.

Jeanne and James Redd had had a previous run-in with the law over Indian artifacts. The Redds paid the state of Utah $10,000 in 2003 after they were prosecuted for raiding an Indian burial ground. The charges against James Redd for the 1996 incident were eventually dropped, while his wife pleaded no contest to a reduced charge.

Jerrica Redd was not indicted during the June 10 raid. Authorities later found evidence in the Redds’ home that allegedly connected her to the artifact thefts, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.

Read the Salt Lake Tribune story here and The Associated Press story here.

Friday, June 26th, 2009

The Justice Department supports the creation of a permanent DOJ Office of Tribal Justice with a presidentially-appointed head, according to a DOJ spokesperson.

The Office of Tribal Justice was created under a federal statute in 1995, but exists at the discretion of the Attorney General. OTJ serves as the DOJ’s point of contact with Indian tribes on tribal justice issues. The Senate Indian Affairs Committee is considering legislation that would make OTJ a permanent division within the Justice Department.

Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli said in a statement submitted to the panel yesterday that the Justice Department supports the creation of a permanent OTJ – like the Office of Legal Counsel – but not the establishment of a permanent tribal justice division – like the Civil Rights Division. He said the OTJ would work better as a permanent office because divisions are “generally large litigating components” of the Justice Department.

“The Office facilitates coordination between Departmental components working on Indian issues, and provides a constant channel of communication for Indian tribal governments with the Department,” Perrelli said. “The Department agrees that it is time to recognize OTJ as a critical and permanent entity within DOJ.”

This is only the latest in a series of efforts by the Justice Department to reach out to Indian tribes. The Justice Department is already doling out hundreds of millions of dollars to tribal justice programs through grants and the Recovery Act, including $225 million for tribal correctional facilities. Last week, Perrelli said Attorney General Eric Holder will hold the Tribal Nations Listening Conference later in the year to help address the concerns of tribal leaders. Perrelli and Deputy Attorney General David Ogden also plan to hold smaller meetings with Indian tribes.

This new emphasis on tribal affairs by the DOJ has delighted members of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. Senate Indian Affairs Chair Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) said he was shocked when he read a Washington Post article that noted DOJ’s emphasis on tribal issues.

“I almost swallowed by Grape Nuts whole from my cereal,” Dorgan said.

But not all senators are happy with how the Justice Department is handling crime in Indian country.

Republican Utah Sens. Orrin Hatch and Bob Bennett criticized Justice Department for the force it used during a high-profile raid earlier this month on people who allegedly took Indian artifacts from tribal lands in Utah. Hatch said at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing with Holder last week that the use of more than a 100 armed agents to arrest a dozen alleged perpetrators for non-violent crimes was “unnecessary and brutal.” Two of the alleged thieves committed suicide following the raid.

Holder defended the actions of the Justice Department during the hearing last week. He said the DOJ agents used the “appropriate amount of force” in the raid.

“The arrests that were done were felony arrests,” Holder said.

Hatch said the raid was a “dog and pony show.” The Justice Department issued a big news release and held a June 10 press conference in Utah with Ogden, Utah U.S. Attorney Brett Tolman and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.

“I am questioning the motives of some of the higher-ups at Justice and at Interior,” Hatch said.

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

The Obama administration has been methodically deploying cabinet officials to score political points for quite a while now.  This strategic deployment has been especially common for top DOJ officials, as we have reported in the past.  Among other things, there was Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli touting a tribal justice initiative in Niagara Falls and Perrelli traveling to Detroit to support the auto industry and announce a $10 million grant for more Detroit police officers.  Most recently, Deputy Attorney General David Ogden was sent to take part in the “dog and pony show” that was the Indian artifacts raid.

President Obama laughs as Eric Holder jokes about their rivalry on the basketball court at Holder's installation ceremony in March at George Washington University. (Getty Images)

President Obama laughs as Eric Holder jokes about their rivalry on the basketball court at Holder's installation ceremony in March at George Washington University. (Getty Images)

Attorney General Eric Holder has been especially visible in supporting President Obama.  Whether it be traveling with him to publicize stimulus grants, pledging to follow-through on the President’s pledges to the Muslim community, or sitting back and letting Obama call the shots, one thing is clear: Holder’s got the President’s back.

And now, Holder’s back on the road pushing Obama’s latest issue: community service, telling Philadelphians yesterday to get in the helping spirit.  Holder was promoting the President’s new program aimed at increasing volunteerism across the nation United We Serve.  Other high profile names were out promoting the initiative as well, including First Lady Michelle Obama, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.

You can watch Michelle Obama’s introduction of the program below: