Amateur Palaeontologist pleads Guilty to Theft Charges
In an update of a web log article first published in January, amateur palaeontologist Nathan Murphy has pleaded guilty to the State charge of theft. The theft concerns a fossil of a small, bipedal dinosaur called a dromaeosaur.
To view the original web log article: Local Fossil Collector Charged with Theft.
In the late autumn of 2006, Nathan Murphy, a well-known and highly regarded amateur palaeontologist and fossil collector took a specimen of a small, dromaeosaur to be studied at his local dinosaur study centre – the Dinosaur Field Station.
Mr Murphy had identified the fossil bones as belonging to a new type of dromaeosaur, a turkey sized animal that he had nick-named “Sid Vicious”, after the infamous English punk rock singer. If Mr Murphy had owned the rights to this fossil, then it could have proved to be an extremely lucrative discovery, as there would be a considerable amount of money to be made selling casts to museums and private collectors. However, Montana State law enforcement officers accused Mr Murphy of theft as the specimen had been discovered several years earlier, not where Mr Murphy claimed to have found it, but on private land and this means that this particular dinosaur fossil probably belongs to someone else.
The charge of theft is appropriate in relation to dromaeosaur fossils. These dinosaurs are often termed “raptors” which can be defined in Latin to mean robber or thief, very apt under these circumstances.
Nathan Murphy, has pleaded guilty to the charge of theft of a fossil from private land. The Federal authorities have also charged Mr. Murphy with a felony for the alleged theft of dinosaur fossils from public land. These charges are pending.
Unfortunately, with the high prices dinosaur fossils fetch these days, allegations of theft and wrong-doing are becoming more common amongst fossil collectors.