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Richton man pleads guilty to illegally excavating archeological site

Photo courtesy of USDA Forest Service/website

A Richton man has pleaded guilty to the unlawful excavation of an archeological site after using a tractor to unearth an area within the Desoto National Forest.

According to court documents, Amos Justin Burnham, 42, was accused of attempting to illegally excavate the archeological findings despite the location being designated a protected site.

The area was reported to have contained material remains of past human activities that were of archeological interest.

The Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 is a federal law that governs the excavation of archaeological sites on federal and Indian lands in the United States, and the removal and disposition of archaeological collections from those sites.

“When archeological sites are destroyed by unlawful excavations and artifacts are stolen, we lose important clues about the past, forever,” Darren J. LaMarca, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi, said. “The United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District and its law enforcement partners are dedicated to protecting archeological sites throughout the Southern District of Mississippi.”

Burnham pleaded guilty to one count of unauthorized excavation of archeological resources on Thursday and is scheduled to be sentenced on October 4.

He is currently facing a maximum penalty of up to two years in prison, a fine of no more than $20,000, and the potential cost associated with the restoration and repair of the archeological site as part of restitution.

A federal district judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

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