Man ordered to pay restitution for illegal dig

Posted: Saturday, June 21, 2003

SPOKANE, Wash (AP) A Spokane man must pay $5,000 for digging in an archaeological site near the Spokane Indian Reservation, a judge has ruled.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Cynthia Imbrogno on Thursday ordered Richard Graham to pay restitution to the Spokane Indian Tribe.

Graham, 34, also is prohibited for a year from setting foot on the Spokane Indian Reservation or the Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area, where his family has a cabin.

Graham, a drywall contractor, pleaded guilty to a federal charge of excavating, removing, damaging or otherwise altering an archaeological resource on public lands without a permit.

The area contains unmarked American Indian graves that date back nearly 600 years. Prosecutors said Graham's excavation did not disturb any human remains.

Graham told authorities he used hands and feet to dig a foot-deep hole in a 3-foot-by-5-foot area of sandy soil at the site along the Spokane River, near Mill Creek, in an area usually covered by backwaters.

The crime occurred March 19, 2000, while Graham and his girlfriend were out for a Sunday afternoon hike, Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Hopkins said.

''The area where the digging occurred is extremely sensitive'' in terms of Indian cultural history and burial sites, Hopkins said.

Graham removed several artifacts, including an awl or spear point bearing a carved design and a portion of a scraper, Hopkins said.

The artifacts are at least 100 years old. Their total commercial value is less than $100, the plea agreement said.

His one-year period of supervised probation could be cut in half if Graham quickly pays the restitution to the tribe, Imbrogno said.

If he'd gone to trial and been convicted, Graham could have faced four to 10 months in jail and a fine.

A National Park Service ranger watched and videotaped the illegal digging before telling Graham he would be charged with a federal gross misdemeanor.

The case was referred for prosecution to the U.S. Attorney's Office, which didn't file charges until this spring, in part because separate damage assessments were being done by the Park Service and tribe.

Defense attorney Carl Oreskovich said he was ''befuddled'' by the decision to prosecute Graham.

''His family have been stewards of this property,'' Oreskovich told the court.

Graham and his family were honored by the Spokane Tribe in the early 1990s for telling the tribe about various artifacts and skeletal remains found during low-water periods on the south banks of the Spokane River, across from the reservation.

Some of the unmarked Indian graves along the river are believed to date back to at least the 1400s, experts say.

''He, of all people, should know the sensitivity of that particular site,'' Hopkins told the judge.

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