FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Friday - January 23,2004
RALEIGH - United States Attorney Frank D. Whitney announced that LAWRENCE M. SMALL pled guilty to violations of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and was sentenced in federal court in Raleigh on Friday, January 23, 2004. SMALL, 62, resides in Washington, D. C., and serves as Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution
A Criminal Information filed on January 5, 2004, charged SMALL with violating the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, from February 1998 until November 27, 2001, by possessing, transporting, causing to be transported, purchasing, bartering, offering to purchase, carrying, and causing to be carried, migratory birds and parts thereof, including but not limited to, Jabiru, Roseate Spoonbill, and Crested Caracara, and aiding and abetting.
Chief U. S. District Judge Terrence W. Boyle sentenced SMALL to serve two years of probation and to perform 100 hours of community service. Judge Boyle also ordered SMALL to submit for publication a letter of explanation to the NEW YORK TIMES, WASHINGTON POST, WALL STREET JOURNAL, L. A. TIMES, and NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC.
In accordance with the terms of SMALL's plea agreement with the United States Attorney's Office, he has forfeited to the government his entire collection of Amazonian artifacts and all pieces in his and his wife's private collection that contain parts of migratory birds or endangered species.
According to evidence and testimony presented in court and documents and exhibits filed in the public record, on or about February 14, 1998, SMALL and his wife entered into a sales agreement in Cary, N. C., within the Eastern District of North Carolina, wherein a seller agreed to convey approximately 1,000 pieces of Brazilian tribal art and artifacts to SMALL and his wife for their personal collection in exchange for $400,000.00. The
seller delivered the pieces to SMALL in two shipments to Washington, D.C.
The total collection purchased by SMALL
consists of artifacts from the Brazilian Amazon. It includes large ceremonial
body masks, headdresses, baskets, necklaces, arrows, darts, cooking utensils,
musical instruments, and other items reflecting the culture of various
tribes in the Amazon. The artifacts are made out of a variety of materials
such as feathers, fiber, wood, teeth, shells, reeds, and cotton. Within
the collection are certain items, including headdresses, ceremonial body
wear, and weapons, which included body parts and feathers from protected
and endangered species.
More specifically, the investigation revealed that approximately 206 pieces purchased by SMALL from the North Carolina seller contained items from the species covered by the Endangered Species Act ("ESA"), the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora ("CITES"), and/or the Migratory Bird Treaty Act ("MBTA"). In addition, a substantial portion of the collection was imported unlawfully by the seller and, therefore, is contraband and evidence of a crime.
Furthermore, the investigation revealed that during his career, SMALL personally imported 13 items that contained the following protected species: Scarlet Macaw (protected under CITES); Roseate Spoonbill (protected under MBTA); Harpy Eagle (protected under the ESA and CITES); and Hyacinth Macaw (protected under CITES).
A review of all permit records showed that SMALL did not obtain, and does not have, a permit for the purchase, possession or transportation of any migratory birds or the parts thereof. Therefore, SMALL's continued possession of such items as late as November 27, 2001, was unlawful.
U. S. Attorney Whitney applauded the efforts of investigators and underscored the importance of this investigation and prosecution: "The efforts of the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service were key in bringing this case to fruition. Information was gathered as a result of an extensive investigation spanning three years and involving nearly a dozen agents and forensic specialists across the country. Our prosecution is designed to give meaning to Congress' decision to protect these species through a scheme of laws and regulations which strictly prohibit the importation, sale, and possession of these types of items except in the most limited circumstances." Mr. Whitney also applauded the work of the Clark R. Bavin National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory, located in Ashland, Oregon. The Bavin Lab is the only crime lab in the world devoted to fish and wildlife forensics investigations.
Agents from the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Northeast Region led the investigation. Thomas J. Healy, Special Agent in Charge of the U. S. Fish and Wildlife's Northeast Region, stressed the need for public education to help citizens avoid the unwitting purchase of illegal wildlife products: "It is our job to enforce wildlife laws. An important part of this effort is to help the public understand that just because an item is offered for sale does not mean that its purchase or importation is legal. Well-meaning people can be caught unaware and subsequently face criminal penalties, fines and the forfeiture of their property. If there is any good that can come of this situation, it is to raise public awareness of the laws governing the sale, purchase, and importation of wildlife parts and products and of the seriousness with which the Congress and the Fish and Wildlife Service take the protection of endangered species."
Assistant U. S. Attorney Banumathi Rangarajan handled the case for the government, with assistance by Elinor Colbourn and John Webb of the Wildlife and Marine Resources Section, Environment and Natural Resources Division, U. S. Department of Justice.