Removing archeological resources from federal lands in Nevada and California has a California doctor facing 21-counts in violation of the Archeological Resources Protection Act.
Jonathan Cornelius Bourne, 59, from Mammoth Lakes was arraigned after a federal grand jury indicted the counts against him.
According to the indictment, counts one through eight occurred in 2010 and 2011 when Bourne removed archeological resources from Nevada into California. These pieces were found on public lands and were thought to be over 100 years old. Among the items were obsidian bitface tools, Steatite pendants and glass beads. The indictment states that these pieces were allegedly removed from tribal cremation and burial sites.
Further counts charge the doctor with illegal and unauthorized excavation and removal damage or defacement of more archaeological resources located in Death Valley National Park, Inyo National Forest and Sierra National Forest. These items were taken between 2010 and 2014 and included such pieces as dart points, stone tablets and a juniper bow stave, found in a glacier remain, thought to once again be over 100 years old.
The indictment states that Bourne willfully injured property belonging to the United States by “excavating, removing, damaging and defacing” cultural artifacts on land administered by the United States Forest Service and National Park Service. The counties the pieces are thought to have come from are Mono, Inyo and Fresno.
Pleading not guilty to the charges, Bourne was released on his own recognizance. He is scheduled to return to court for a status conference on Dec. 7.
If convicted, the doctor faces a maximum of 98 years in prison and a $2,030,000 fine. The court, if any, would determine the sentence, after consideration of all factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.
The indictment states, “The charges are only allegations; the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Officials confiscated over 30,000 pieces from Bourne’s Mammoth Lakes home. Included with those pieces were logbooks containing details of the finds.
Fellow Mammoth Lakes Hospital doctor, Michael Karch, told the L.A. Times, “Bourne wanted to donated the collection to the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History when he died.”
He would go on to say, “This investigation is a waste of taxpayers’ money. These are arrowheads and they’ve been laying in the dirt for thousands of years.”
Unfortunately, for Bourne, this is not his first encounter with trouble on federal lands. In 2006, Bourne paid $1 million in restitution for a fire, which burned approximately 7,435 acres in Inyo National Forest.