Press release from
Office of the United States Attorney
Eastern District of California
Acting U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert
FRESNO, Calif. — Jonathan Cornelius Bourne, 59, of Mammoth Lakes, was sentenced Monday to two years of probation, a $40,000 fine, and $249,372 in restitution for felony violations of the Archeological Resources Protection Act, Acting U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced. Additionally, Bourne is banned from entering federal public lands for recreational purposes while on probation.
On August 15, 2016, Bourne pleaded guilty to unauthorized transportation of archeological resources and unauthorized excavation, removal, damage, or defacement of archeological resources. According to court documents, Bourne had been collecting artifacts and archeological resources since 1994. He documented each item and has voluntarily turned over to the government an estimated 20,000 archeological items that he had collected from public lands.
According to the plea agreement, on October 14, 2010, Bourne altered a small prehistoric site, cremation site, and burial cairns in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest in Nevada. He removed glass trade beads and transported them to his home in Mammoth Lakes. On January 10, 2011, Bourne altered a large prehistoric site in Death Valley National Park and removed a tool made from a bighorn sheep horn and three incised stone tablets, which were later found in Bourne’s home.
In sentencing Bourne, U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill stated that the damage caused by Bourne could not be undone no matter what sentence was imposed. He further stated that this case highlighted the importance of educating others as to the significance of the sacred Native American cultural resources and the protection of the Native American cultural sites.
Death Valley National Park Superintendent Mike Reynolds said, “Death Valley is the homeland of the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe. Dr. Bourne didn’t just steal their heritage; he stole from all Americans when he removed these artifacts from the park. I’m relieved that he has been sentenced and is paying restitution to help us curate the artifacts. I hope this will help deter other people from desecrating important cultural resources that help tell our nation’s history. However, we’ve permanently lost information that could have been learned if the artifacts had never been moved.”
This case was the product of an investigation by the United States Forest Service, the National Park Service, and the Bureau of Land Management. Assistant United States Attorney Laurel J. Montoya prosecuted the case.