February 19, 1998 in Nation/World

Pusher To Pay For Old Skull’s Reburial Prehistoric Remains Had Paid Off A Drug Debt

Sheila R. Mccann Salt Lake Tribune

As a drug dealer in Kane County, Richard J. Lamb accepted a prehistoric American Indian skull as payment for a customer’s debt - and then tried to sell it for $200 in August 1995 to finance his own habit.

But the buyer was a confidential informant helping to investigate Lamb’s drug activity. Lamb, arrested and sentenced to prison on state drug-distribution charges, later was indicted in federal court for trafficking in American Indian remains.

At his federal sentencing Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell ordered Lamb to serve 5 years probation for the skull sale, praising Lamb’s “valiant attempt” to overcome substance abuse while in prison. He is scheduled to be released next week after serving two years.

The crime was serious, Campbell observed, but added “Lamb’s role was not typical” because he did not excavate the skull himself.

The skull has been tested by experts at the University of Utah and the Smithsonian, and is believed to be from an adult male from the “basket maker” culture, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Wayne Dance.

Because no one knows where the skull was exhumed, the National Park Service is consulting with several tribes to determine where it should be reburied, Dance said. Campbell ordered Lamb to pay $6,416 in restitution to fund the reburial effort and serve 200 hours of community service.

Lamb first told the undercover informant that he had dug up the skull, believing that would bolster its authenticity, said defense attorney Patrick Anderson.

But after his arrest, Lamb said he accepted it as payment from a man who told him it had been handed down in his family by his grandfather. That man has not been prosecuted, Dance said.

Lamb, 28, had pleaded guilty to a felony count of violating the Archaeological Resources Protection Act and a misdemeanor count of trafficking in American Indian remains. There is no federal sentencing guideline covering the crimes, giving Campbell wider discretion.

Anderson urged Campbell to sentence Lamb to probation, allowing him to accept a job offer in Kanab and start college this fall at Southern Utah University.

Lamb, a 1986 co-Most Valuable Player for the state in 1-A high school football, told Campbell he had learned a lesson in prison. “I’ve come to respect laws and rules,” he told her.

He looks forward to working against drug use in the community, Anderson added. After his sentencing on the state drug charges, Lamb wrote to a southern Utah newspaper from prison to apologize for “partying, selling drugs” and being a poor role model. He urged young people to avoid his mistakes, deploring his own use of marijuana and methamphetamine. “It is a dead-end street,” Lamb wrote. “Believe me, I know.”

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