August 4, 2023

Richton Man Pleads Guilty to a Violation of the Archeological Resources Protection Act

Morgan Howard

A Richton man pleaded guilty to the unlawful excavation of an archeological site, announced U.S. Attorney Darren J. LaMarca and Forest Supervisor Shannon Kelardy of the United States Forest Service.

According to court documents, 42-year-old Amos Justin Burnham, of Richton, used a tractor to illegally excavate an archeological site within the Desoto National Forest.

Court documents further revealed that the archeological site had been designated as a protected site because it contained material remains of past human activities that are of archeological interest.

The Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979, is a federal law that governs the excavation of archaeological sites on federal and Indian lands in the United States, and the removal and disposition of archaeological collections from those sites.

Burnham pleaded guilty to one count of Unauthorize Excavation of Archeological Resources. He is scheduled to be sentenced on October 4, 2023 and faces a maximum penalty of up to two years in prison, a fine of not more than $20,000, and the potential cost associated with the restoration and repair of the archeological site as part of restitution. A federal district judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

“When archeological sites are destroyed by unlawful excavations and artifacts are stolen, we lose important clues about the past, forever. The United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District and its law enforcement partners are dedicated to protecting archeological sites throughout the Southern District of Mississippi.” Darren J. LaMarca, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi.

The United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service investigated the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin J. Payne and Special Assistant United States Attorney Brian K. Burns are prosecuting the case.

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