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Fossil Hunters Will Be Tried in Rapid City, Judge Rules
RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) - The federal trial of Hill City fossil collectors will
stay in Rapid City, a judge has ruled.
U.S. District Judge Richard Battey rejected prosecutors' request to move the
trial to Aberdeen. Six employees of the Black Hills Institute for Geological
Research are charged with stealing fossils from government lands and falsifying
documents to cover up the thefts.
All six have pleaded innocent.
Prosecutors had argued that finding an impartial jury would be difficult for the
high-profile case. Defense lawyers said moving the trial would be an unfair
burden on them.
Battey ruled an impartial jury could be found in Rapid City.
"It's really good news for everybody," said Pat Duffy, an attorney for institute
president Pete Larson. "It's fair to the community, fair to the institute and
certainly fair under the law."
The trial is set to begin Nov. 4, and Duffy said it could take several months.
The case gained nationwide attention in May 1992, when federal agents seized a
65 million-year-old Tyrannosaurus rex fossil nicknamed "Sue." A judge later
ruled the institute had improperly taken the fossil from federal trust land on
the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation.
Court battles over the fossil are continuing between the institute, the
federal government, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and Maurice Williams, the man
on whose ranch the fossil was found.
The criminal case does not refer to Sue. The fossil remains in storage at the
South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City.