Two men arrested in taking of artifacts

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Two men were arrested Monday for taking Civil War-era artifacts from the muggy bottom of the Alabama River.

The unidentified suspects, one from California and the other from Birmingham, were charged with taking or possessing cultural artifacts without a permit.

Officials from the Selma Police Department, the state Department of Conservation, and Game Warden Joe Johnston found items such as a musket and iron cannon balls hidden in the men’s pontoon boat.

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Police Chief Robert Green said his officers noticed the men diving off their boat into the river.

Along with the musket and cannon balls, there were other iron items found on the boat that investigators are still trying to identify.

Mark Rouleau, assistant district supervisor for the Department of Conservation, said this was a very unusual arrest.

Rouleau said a state archeologist at the scene dated the musket to a period before the Civil War.

The weapon would have been valued at several thousand dollars, Rouleau said, but the suspects somehow managed to break it.

The boat and all equipment on board was confiscated as evidence by the state. The artifacts have been taken to a lab for cleaning and inspection.

The suspect from California is believed to be the head of an outdoors channel on cable television.

The other suspect from Birmingham may possibly be linked to an antiques dealer who sells artifacts online.

The two men were taken to the Dallas County Jail on class C felony charges. They were later released on bond.

Rouleau said it is not illegal for someone to take artifacts, such as arrowheads, found above ground, but any digging for them requires a special permit.