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SALT LAKE CITY -- Last month's massive and controversial raid on illegal Indian-artifacts trading led to some surprising guilty pleas on Monday. The raid provoked outrage in southeastern Utah, partly because it led a prominent Blanding doctor to commit suicide. On Monday, his widow and his daughter made surprise confessions that could put them behind bars for years.
Mother pleads guilty in artifacts theft case
During an appearance in U.S. District Court, Jeanne Redd, 59, admitted possessing, selling or exchanging ancient jewelry, sandals, a ceramic mug and an axe.
Throughout the proceeding, Redd contested some of the government's claims about the artifacts, specifically, she spoke out against the value of some of the pottery and jewelry.
"I did not pay for it, but it doesn't exceed more than $1,000 in value," Redd told the judge.
Her lawyers agreed the government valued some of the items at more than Redd did.
Daughter also took a plea deal
In a courtroom surprise, Redd's daughter, Jericca, took a plea deal. Until Monday, it was kept a secret that Jericca was even under investigation.
Melodie Rydalch, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office, said, "The felony information was filed under seal last week and then unsealed today."
Jericca Redd admitted she excavated a pottery vessel, a jar and a vase on the Navajo reservation, knowing it was illegal. She brought them home and put them on display.
Prosecutors hope case sends a message
Prosecutors say the guilty pleas demonstrate they had a good case.
Assistant U.S. Attorney for Utah Carlie Christensen said, "I am hopeful that San Juan County will understand that there was a very careful and deliberative process that was undertaken before charges were filed."
"It's a very serious case," said Rydalch. "We take these kinds of extreme cases extremely serious. We think it's part of our responsibility to protect the resources of the country and the tribal lands. So it's something that we feel very strongly about."
Both mother and daughter face the potential of prison time and heavy fines when sentenced Sept. 16. The U.S. Attorney's Office for Utah said it would recommend a lighter sentence.
Federal prosecutors say the guilty pleas should send a message.
Assistant U.S. Attorney for Utah Carlie Christensen said, "We hope the message is that people will learn that we have sacred, stunning, rare, unique artifacts on our public lands and on Indian tribal lands. We need to protect them, and we need to treasure them."
The Redds bolted from the courthouse out a side door refusing to speak to reporters. Their attorneys also did not comment outside of court.
Prosecutors won't say if other plea deals in the works
Christensen refused to say if the Redds agreed to testify against any of the other defendants in the case.
"Certainly now other defendants who have been charged will be made aware that (the Redds) have pleaded guilty," she said. "That may or may not be a factor in how we go forward."
The Redds are the first of 25 defendants to take plea deals in what federal authorities have claimed was one of the largest artifacts theft cases in the nation. They also represent two of the highest-profile people charged.
Jeanne Redd's husband, Dr. James Redd, 60, committed suicide the day after a raid in the Four Corners area netted the bulk of the arrests. His death, and the suicide of Stephen L. Shrader, 56, sparked criticism of some of the tactics employed by federal prosecutors.
The U.S. Attorney's Office for Utah and the FBI have defended their decisions, saying the raid was necessary for officer safety and the preservation of evidence.
Prosecutors have not ruled out more charges against more defendants. The next big steps are a scheduling hearing for two dozen defendants in August and sentencing for the Redds in September.