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Saturday, June 22, 2024 | Back issues
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Doctor Charged With Looting Indian Burial Grounds

FRESNO, Calif. (CN) - A doctor has been charged with looting ancient Native American artifacts from tribal and public lands including Death Valley National Park and Sierra National Forest.

Jonathan Bourne, 59, pleaded not guilty on Monday after a federal grand jury in Fresno returned a 21-count indictment against him, charging him with violations of the Archaeological Resources Protection Act.

"This indictment shows that the prohibited acts including the unauthorized damage, alteration, excavation, and removal of archaeological resources on federally managed public lands is a serious matter," said U.S. Forest Service Law Enforcement Special Agent Mike Grate.

Authorities launched a yearlong investigation into Bourne, an anesthesiologist at Mammoth Hospital in Mono County, after a hiking club's website posted pictures of him digging a wooden bow out of a melting glacier in the High Sierra.

U.S. Forest Service agents recovered the ancient items during a search of Bourne's home in December. The items represent a historical record spanning more than 11,000 years, according to authorities.

The indictment lists 32 specific items that Bourne allegedly took from Death Valley National Park, Sierra National Forest and a cremation burial site in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest between 2010 and 2014.

Among the items confiscated were obsidian cutting tools, three etched stone tablets, dart points, glass beads, and a juniper bow.

Bourne also had logbooks in his possession that noted details about each of his archaeological finds, according to the indictment.

If convicted, Bourne faces up to 98 years in prison and a $2.03 million fine.

Bourne was released on his own recognizance after pleading not guilty. His next court date is a status conference before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheila Oberto on Dec. 7.

Bourne is represented by attorney Mark Coleman, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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