Crime - Sacto 911

Mono County man pleads guilty to removing thousands of items from public lands

A Mono County man pleaded guilty Monday to unauthorized removal and transportation of archaeological items from a national forest and Death Valley National Park.

According to federal prosecutors, Jonathan Bourne, 59, has been collecting artifacts and archaeological resources since 1994, and has now voluntarily turned over to the government an estimated 20,000 items he had collected from public lands. He has also agreed to pay $249,372 in restitution to the United States.

The stolen items will be restored and/or repatriated, the prosecutors said.

A written plea agreement, signed by Bourne, says he was not collecting the items “for profit or commercial purposes.” It says he “kept meticulous records documenting what all the items were and where (they) were found.”

He faces a maximum two years on each of the two felony counts to which he pleaded guilty, and is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 7 by U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill.

Bourne admitted in the written plea pact that in October 2010 he removed and took home “glass trade beads” from a prehistoric cremation and burial site in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest in Nevada.

According to a history site on the internet, the earliest of the beads were made from materials such as bone, teeth, ivory, seeds, wood, stone and resins from a variety of insects and plants. They were worn as protection against events such as harsh weather, to enhance beauty, and as a show of status. Later, according to the site, they were in use as a form of currency.

The written plea document also covers Bourne’s theft from a prehistoric site in Death Valley of a tool made from the horn of a Bighorn sheep that was used in stone tool production, and three incised stone tablets. Pieces of stone bearing carved words, figures or designs are referred to as “incised” in the field of archaeology.

Bourne’s office is in Mammoth Lakes, a town approximately 235 miles southeast of Sacramento with a population of approximately 8,000 – the only incorporated community in Mono County.

According to his website, Bourne an anesthesiologist, is affiliated with the community’s Mammoth Hospital and with Northern Inyo Hospital in Bishop, an Inyo County town approximately half the size of Mammoth Lakes. Inyo and Mono counties abut each other on the eastern slope of the Sierra.

Denny Walsh: 916-321-1189