Suspect in artifacts theft case claims entrapment by feds

A local man facing charges for selling archeological artifacts is arguing that law enforcement used an illegal ruse to bring criminal charges in his case.

Attorneys for Robert Knowlton, 66, of Orchard Mesa, filed motions Dec. 14, asking a federal judge to throw out a five-count indictment returned by a grand jury in August. The indictment alleged Knowlton sold archeological resources and illegally transported them across state lines in the summer of 2008.

In the motions, Knowlton’s attorney argues the indictment was flawed because it doesn’t claim Knowlton knew the items were stolen from federal lands before he sold them.

Knowlton, at the time a Fort Collins resident, sold a pipe, knife and knife point to an informant working for the FBI. The day after the sale, Knowlton mailed the items in a package from Colorado to Utah. The informant turned it over to the FBI in July 2008.

According to a search warrant affidavit, the informant asked Knowlton to mail the items, saying he was flying home, and he “tries not to check his luggage.”

Knowlton’s attorneys noted the informant “just as easily” could have taken the items in his luggage. They raise arguments of entrapment by the FBI and Bureau of Land Management.

“Mr. Knowlton’s courteous agreement to mail a package cannot be viewed as an integral part of the consummated in-state sale of artifacts,” a motion reads. “Moreover, federal circuit courts have expressed concern with law enforcement improperly manufacturing federal jurisdiction for the purpose of transforming a local crime into a federal one.”

Federal prosecutors haven’t responded in writing. The issues are expected to be hashed out in a motions hearing in early January before U.S. District Judge Philip Brimmer.

Knowlton, who is free on bond, has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled for trial in February.


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