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California doctor indicted in theft of Native American artifacts

By
Tomas Monzon

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 5 (UPI) -- A Los Angeles anesthesiologist has been indicted on 21 felony charges related to the theft of Native American artifacts.

Jonathan Bourne's indictment is the result of an investigation prompted by August 2014 photos that appear to show him digging out a wooden bow from a melting glacier in the High Sierra.

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U.S. Forest Service agents searched Bourne's High Sierra mansion and found nearly 30,000 ancient items from across 11,000 years of history, according to the indictment, filed Sept. 17. Log books detailing the finds were also found.

The indictment identifies 32 confiscated items, including dart points, glass beads, cutting tools and three etched stone tablets.

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The 21 charges against Bourne, 59, include unlawful transportation of archaeological resources, unauthorized excavation, removal, damage, defacement, injury to government property and possession of stolen government property.

Native American leaders have in the past complained about the unlawful removal of artifacts on tribal and public lands, saying it destroys culture and jeopardizes scientific data that can be used by archaeologists to better understand North America's earliest people.

Greg Harvestock, a U.S. Bureau of Land Management archaeologist involved in the case, told the Los Angeles Times that the theft is "a serious crime" and that "it damages archaeological records." He also said tribal members may describe "the removal of such items as sacrilegious."

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Mark Coleman, one of Bourne's attorneys, said Bourne had spotted a piece of wood and extracted it so as to better preserve it in the event that it possessed historical significance.

If Bourne is convicted, he faces up to 98 years in prison in addition to the forfeiture of all vehicles and equipment used to procure the items. Federal prosecutors were expected to seek a sentence of less than 20 years.

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