Two prominent Blanding residents pleaded guilty in federal court Monday to illegal trafficking in American Indian artifacts, the first of what could be many more plea deals resulting from a 2½-year investigation into grave robbing and relic thefts in the Four Corners region.
Jeanne Redd, 59, and daughter Jericca Redd, 37, were hustled out a side door of U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City by a federal prosecutor into a waiting car after they admitted to multiple felonies for excavating, possessing and selling prehistoric seed jars, pottery and jewelry.
Under questioning from U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups, Jeanne Redd pleaded guilty to seven felonies: two counts of violating the Archaeological Resources Protection Act, two counts of theft of government property and three counts of theft of American Indian tribal property. Each carries potential fines of $250,000 and up to 10 years in prison.
Clinging to the lectern, Redd sometimes wavered or answered hoarsely to Waddoups' questions about her crimes and understanding of the penalties she could face. She quibbled with the judge's statement that a bird pendant she took from Black Mesa near Kayenta, on the Navajo reservation, was worth more than $1,000.
"I didn't pay for it," Redd said, adding she didn't believe it was worth $1,000. Redd also questioned why she faced two charges for digging up the same four sandals on U.S. Forest Service land.
Redd admitted taking a mug from a prehistoric Indian ruin at Owl Creek and a turquoise pendant from Butler Wash (both on Bureau of Land Management property); a hafted ax and a gourd necklace from the Navajo reservation; and the sandals from Forest Service land.
As part of her plea, Redd agreed to give up all of the artifacts.
When the judge left the courtroom, Redd continued to stand alone at the lectern. After a few minutes, one of her attorneys led her away.
Before her mother faced the judge, Jericca Redd, charged Friday as part of the pleading, admitted to three felonies for digging up a seed jar, a vase and a pottery vessel April 8, 2008, on the Navajo reservation.
Both women will be sentenced Sept. 16. Assistant U.S. Attorney Carlie Christensen said her office would recommend the Redds not serve the maximum.
Utah Division of Indian Affairs Director Forrest Cuch said he hopes the guilty pleas help prevent future lootings.
"This is an opportunity for them [Jericca and Jeanne Redd] to be accountable for their actions," Cuch said. "It's the right action to take. I hope that they can learn from this, and it will send a message to all other prospective looters that this is a very serious offense."
Federal authorities may have appeared heavy-handed in their arrests, Cuch said, but "that's the way they conduct business, and apparently there's a reason for it: Some people are violent."
While San Juan County residents seek respect from federal authorities, Cuch said, they also should respect those whose artifacts are displaced.
"American Indians are human beings, too," he said. "They want respect."
Christensen declined to say what led investigators to charge Jericca Redd, only that evidence turned up during the June 10 raid on her parents' Blanding home, where she also lived.
Jeanne Redd's husband, physician James Redd, also was indicted June 10 -- on one felony count of theft of tribal property. He committed suicide the next day. Another of the 24 defendants netted in the sweep, Steven Shrader, of Santa Fe, N.M., shot himself to death a week later.
The defendants -- from Utah, Colorado and New Mexico -- were charged under 12 grand-jury indictments. Most are from southeastern Utah's San Juan County.
The charges came after an undercover operative known only as the "Source" bought and sold more than 250 ancient Puebloan artifacts. The Source -- who law-enforcement officials told The Salt Lake Tribune came to them voluntarily -- was wired with an audiovisual recorder during his transactions.
According to court papers filed in Colorado, the Source, an artifacts dealer with "unique access to the trading and sale of archaeological resources both legal and suspected to be illegal," made about 130 "consensual" telephonic and in-person recordings.
The information the Source gathered, court papers say, has been corroborated by video and audio recordings and through surveillance and real-time monitoring by FBI and BLM special agents.
The documents say the Source was paid $224,000 from Dec. 1, 2006, to June 9, 2009, for his services. His criminal history, the documents say, consists of a 2005 DUI arrest, which resulted in a reckless-driving plea. In November 2008, he mistakenly used money the FBI provided him to lease a car for personal expenses instead. The Source admitted his mistake and made arrangements to pay the leasing company.
Jeanne Redd, who pleaded guilty to seven felonies Monday, was among 24 defendants indicted in a June 10 crackdown on illegal trafficking of American Indian artifacts from the Four Corners region.
Her husband, James Redd, who also was charged, committed suicide the next day. Another defendant, Steven Shrader, of Santa Fe, N.M., took his own life a week later.
The Redds' daughter, Jericca Redd, was not indicted in the original sweep. She admitted to three felonies Monday.