Five dinosaur hunters who found the most complete Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton ever dug up have been acquitted of charges they illegally collected fossils on federal land.
The verdict was a major blow to the government, which had spent millions of dollars and four years on the case, and had hoped to send a message to other fossil hunters.
Pete Larson, co-owner of the private Black Hills Institute of Geological Research, and four other institute officers were accused of pilfering hundreds of fossils from federal land.
While the jury either acquitted the men or failed to reach a verdict on the most serious charges, the defendants were convicted of several lesser offenses, including customs violations related to the import and export of fossils.
Defense lawyer Pat Duffy said he would appeal Tuesday’s verdict.