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Missouri professor: Theft accusations were misunderstanding

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COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — A University of Missouri professor says that his now-dropped charges related to the removal of artifacts from a national forest were due to miscommunication.

Professor R. Lee Lyman says he and two other researchers went on 2013 trip to the Umatilla National Forest and Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness in southeastern Washington for "archaeological reconnaissance."

"They made some assumptions of what archaeological reconnaissance means, I made some assumptions about what that rule means and those assumptions were not the same," Lyman said Friday.

Lyman claims the U.S Forest Service informed the researchers that they didn't need permits to collect artifacts on federal land.

Once in Missouri, the men reported what they collected and the Forest Service demanded that they return the artifacts.

Authorities say the researchers removed more than 93 items, including chipping debris and rock samples from seven sites in violation of the federal Archaeological Resources Protection Act.

Lyman said they only removed items they believed were in danger of being destroyed, per his agreement with the service.

The Columbia Daily Tribune ( ) reports that they were charged this summer with second-degree theft and second-degree malicious mischief. The professor was also charged with making false or misleading statements to a public servant.

Columbia County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Dale Slack said charges against doctoral candidate Matthew T. Boulanger and research affiliate Dave N. Schmitt were dropped in September after they agreed to testify against Lyman at trial.

The professor's charges were dropped after he agreed to write a letter of apology to the Nez Perce tribe, whose federally protected land hosted the trip. Lyman also agreed to not conduct research on federal land for one year.

Slack said that they were not happy with the way the case turned out, but that "The only thing that led me to settling the case was the difficulty in proving damages."


Information from: Columbia Daily Tribune,

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