GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) – A paleontologist who found one of the world’s best-preserved dinosaurs has pleaded not guilty to a federal charge that he stole fossils from Bureau of Land Management property near Malta.
Nate Murphy entered his plea Feb. 19 in U.S. District Court in Great Falls.
The federal charge alleges Murphy took fossils from BLM land between August 2006 and August 2007 and that the fossils were worth more than $1,000. Court records are not more specific about the items allegedly taken.
Murphy also faces a state charge that he took a turkey-size raptor fossil from private land near Malta with the intention of selling replicas of the fossil, which is worth between $150,000 and $400,000.
Murphy didn’t comment at the federal arraignment, but has previously said he never stole or sold dinosaur fossils.
Kevin O’Brien, a spokesman for the state attorney general’s office, said the state and federal cases stem from the same investigation.
The federal trial is set for Feb. 24 while the state trial is scheduled for March 18.
Murphy, who was released on his own recognizance, lives in Billings and runs a paleo-outfitting business, where he takes paying amateur diggers to private land near Grass Range to search for dinosaur fossils.
Murphy’s most famous find was a mummified dinosaur dubbed Leonardo, a 77 million-year-old duckbill with fossilized skin and organs. The dinosaur was featured on the cover of Newsweek and National Geographic and was featured in a Discovery Channel documentary. It is currently being displayed at the Houston Museum of Natural Sciences.
Information from: Great Falls Tribune, http://www.greatfallstribune.com
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