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Lewiston Man Gets Probation, Fine for Digging Up Indian Artifacts

A Lewiston man has been sentenced in federal court for illegally digging for Indian artifacts along the Clearwater River, following his guilty plea earlier this year.

Rex C. Davis II, 38, was sentenced Friday at Moscow by U.S. Magistrate Stephen M. Ayers of Coeur d'Alene to a year's probation and 150 hours of community service and fined about $1,100.

Davis pleaded guilty in September in U.S. District Court to the federal misdemeanor of knowingly digging, altering and damaging archaeological sites along the Clearwater River between July 1 and Nov. 28, 1988.

The crime could draw maximum penalties of up to a year in jail, a $10,000 fine or both.

The sentencing drew qualified praise Monday from Allen V. Pinkham, chairman of the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee.

''It's going in the right direction, anyway,'' Pinkham said. ''At least it's looking a little better.'' Tribal leaders had protested what they felt was a light sentence given in September to Richard R. Williams, another Lewiston man convicted of the same crime in July by a federal jury.

Williams received a year's probation, 120 hours of community service and no fine. The tribe contended that without a fine, Williams' sentence would not be seen as stiff enough to deter anyone from repeating the crime.

The sentencing was one incident cited by the tribe and several human rights groups that asked federal officials in September to investigate the conduct of Maurice Ellsworth, U.S. Attorney for Idaho. The groups accused Ellsworth of being racist in his dealings with minorities, in large part because of a memo Ellsworth authored that identified Hispanics as being a major source of drug trafficking in Idaho.

Ellsworth has denied the allegations. In the Williams artifacts case, he pointed out that a federal prosecutor had pushed for a stiffer sentence than the one handed out by Ayers.

Meanwhile, Williams has returned to the Nez Perce Tribe some artifacts taken from the dig site, said Sandi McFarland, the tribe's cultural coordinator.

McFarland said Williams turned over several artifacts Friday to his probation officer.

An inventory has not yet been done, but the items include 13 arrowheads, some stone flakes and petrified wood, McFarland said. ''I don't know if that's everything he got there, but it was an effort on his part,'' she said.

''There's no way you can actually document if they were taken from that site, except he said so,'' added Pinkham.

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