Jeanne and Jericca Redd (pictured here with their attorney) have been sentenced in the federal artifact-looting investigation. They are the first to be sentenced, there are at least 26 other potential criminal defendants. U.S. District Court Judge Waddous sentenced Jeanne Redd to 36 months’s probation and a $2,000 fine, and her daughter Jericca to 24 months’ probatoin and a $300 fine. Federal prosecutors had recommended 18 months in prison for Jeanne. Jeanne pleaded guilty to seven felonies, two counts of violating the Archaeological Resources Protection Act, two counts of theft, and three counts of theft of tribal property. Each one of those counts carried a potential fine of $250,000 and 10 years in prison. The younger Redd admitted to three felonies for digging up a seed jar, a vase, and a vessel on the Navajo reservation. Over 800 objects, including human remains were seized from the Redds.
However Judge Waddous said “This is a community where this kind of conduct . . . has been justified for a number of years . . . This is a woman who has spent her life as a member of her community . . . I want to express my thanks, . . . I know this has been a terrible experience for all of you.”
Judge Waddons is referring to the suicide of James Redd earlier this summer, and that seems to have had a substantial impact on the sentencing. It is also a general rule in sentencing that when a defendant pleads guilty, a prosecutor will recommend a much lesser sentence, but in this case the sentence fell far short of the sentence recommended by the prosecutors.
George Hardeen, a spokeseman for Navajo Nation president Joe Shirley Jr. said “The Navajo people are compassionate toward others who have had a tragic loss as the Redd family have . . . At the same time, Navajos have a deep respect for burials and ruins and teach that these are not to be disturbed. Obviously, Navajos want them left alone and not looted for their artifacts.”
In an interview on NPR this morning Mark Michel of the Archeological Conservancy said “The sentence is disappointing . . . And I’m afraid it sends a message that this is not serious criminal activity.”
U.S. Attorney Richard McKelvie saw it another way, “I can’t imagine anybody willfully subjecting themselves to anything the Redds have gone through . . . You can’t ignore the consequences that these people have suffered as a result of the investigation and prosecution of this case.”
These sentences are certainly on the light side, but even if the judge had thrown the “book” at the Redds and all the other defendants, would that have a sustained impact on the preservation of the archaeological record in the Southwest? It may, or it may produce a backlash. Criminal penalties are an important component, but criminal penalties in isolation will not solve the problem. There are very different ways of valuing these sites and objects, and increased awareness of how important and valuable the archaeological record is are critical components of this process.