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Crime & Litigation



National Park Service settles ranger’s whistleblower appeal

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Written by RYAN J. FOLEY, Associated Press   
Thursday, 21 August 2014 10:01

Woodland conical mounds at Effigy Mounds National Monument in Clayton County, Iowa. Image by Billwittaker. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) – The National Park Service has reached a settlement with an employee who said she was unfairly fired over the 1990 removal of ancient human remains from the Effigy Mounds National Monument that were only returned three years ago, newly released records show.

Sharon Greener, a former employee at the northeastern Iowa site, says she was a part-time ranger when she was directed by then-superintendent Tom Munson to pack two cardboard boxes with museum artifacts. Munson returned the artifacts – including fragments of jaws and leg bones believed to be 1,000 to 2,000 years old – in 2011 after new superintendent Jim Nepstad opened an inquiry into what happened.

Munson said they had been in the garage of his Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, home, a revelation that outraged the 12 tribes who are affiliated with the monument and consider the site sacred. Tribes were already angry at monument officials for illegally building boardwalks through the site, which had prompted Superintendent Phyllis Ewing's transfer months earlier.

The National Park Service, embarrassed over the revelations, suspended and fired Greener even though she had reported the missing artifacts to superiors at least eight times in the 1990s and 2000s, she claimed in records released under the Freedom of Information Act. The agency accused her of a “lack of candor,” placed her on paid leave in 2012 and fired her a year later, in June 2013.

Greener's appeal argued she was fired in violation of whistleblower protections, made a scapegoat when her reports “could no longer be swept under the rug.” The agency settled in April, agreeing to reinstate her with back pay, reimburse her attorneys' fees, and allow her to retire early. The $48,000 per-year employee was ultimately paid nearly two years for not working.

One watchdog not involved in Greener's case said it illustrates the agency's “shoot the messenger approach to personnel management,” which often features long leaves and unfair investigations.

“Generally, the only time they act is when there is public embarrassment,” said Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, which represents whistleblowers.

State Archaeologist John Doershuk, who was part of a committee that reviewed the artifacts' mishandling, called the settlement curious, saying he'd been told that Greener “consistently denied knowing anything about” the 1990 removal.

Tim Mason of Friends of Effigy Mounds, a group that supports the monument but has criticized its management, called the settlement a waste of tax dollars. “No one is being held accountable,” he said.

Greener was told in 1990 that the artifacts were being removed under a process known as deaccession, but she later learned the proper steps hadn't been followed, said her attorney, Bill Roemerman.

Tribal representatives suspect Munson removed the artifacts to circumvent a new federal law requiring museums to return ancient remains to tribes. Many archaeologists worried that the law would harm their research. Munson's attorney has said his client is cooperating with an inquiry by the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Previous superintendents looked into what happened to the artifacts, but they weren't recovered until Nepstad's 2011 inquiry.

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-08-19-14 2102GMT



ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE

 Woodland conical mounds at Effigy Mounds National Monument in Clayton County, Iowa. Image by Billwittaker. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Last Updated on Thursday, 21 August 2014 10:09
 

Dealer countersues Jim Brown in NFL title ring dispute

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Written by as   
Wednesday, 20 August 2014 09:53
Topps 1963 Jim Brown football trading card. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and Fusco Auctions. NEW YORK (AP) – A memorabilia dealer has counter-sued Hall of Fame football star Jim Brown for $1 million in a dispute over his 1964 NFL championship ring.

Brown filed a lawsuit in New York against Lelands.com and Leland's Collectibles Inc. The lawsuit said the ring was stolen from Brown's Cleveland home in the late 1960s and sought to block Lelands' sale.

The counter-suit filed by Leland's on Friday says Brown's ex-wife became the owner of the ring after their divorce and sold it to a collector in the 1980s. It says the ring changed hands several times before Lelands bought it in May.

Lelands says Brown's lawsuit diminished the value of the ring and forced the dealer to pull it out of an online auction.

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-08-15-14 2107GMT

 

 

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 20 August 2014 10:22
 

Arrest warrant issued in Banksy vandalism case

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Written by MICHELLE L. PRICE, Associated Press   
Wednesday, 20 August 2014 09:34

Dreweatts & Bloomsbury sold this Banksky painting in December 2013 in London for $291,326. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and Dreweatts & Bloomsbury.

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – A Utah judge ordered the arrest Monday of a man seen in YouTube videos defacing murals believed to have been done by the famous graffiti artist Banksy.

David William Noll has been accused of vandalizing two Banksy wall paintings in Park City, and the California man failed to appear for a court hearing on the matter Monday, prompting the warrant for his arrest.

“Banksy” is a pseudonym for the elusive artist, known for silhouetted figures and spray-painted messages that show up in unexpected places. His works have sold for as much as $1.1 million at auction.

The Park City murals appeared on the city's historic Main Street in 2010, around the time Banksy was in town for the Sundance Film Festival debut of his documentary, Exit Through the Gift Shop.

Prosecutors say Noll vandalized the works on New Year's Eve, breaking clear protective covers and defacing one mural with paint.

A mural depicting a young boy, with a pink halo and angel wings, kneeling to pray behind a can of pink paint was covered in brown spray paint after the protective glass was shattered.

A nearby mural, featuring a cameraman shooting video footage of a flower, was not defaced, but its bulletproof covering had been cracked.

Prosecutors in Utah's Summit County said it cost almost $8,400 to restore the damaged mural and $800 to replace the glass protective cover.

Noll was charged in April with one count of criminal mischief in connection with the damage. He has not yet entered a plea.

Messages left with Noll's attorneys Monday were not immediately returned.

Investigators zeroed in on Noll after discovering YouTube videos depicting vandalism of Banksy art in Park City and elsewhere, according to charging documents.

The videos appeared to be filmed by the person defacing the murals, and one video captured the person's face as he interacted with Los Angeles police, the court papers state.

California police told Utah investigators that Noll was the man in the videos, and he was jailed in California in connection with vandalizing Banksy murals in Los Angeles.

Shiara Davila-Morales, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office, said Monday that Noll pleaded no contest in April to two felony vandalism charges. He was sentenced to about five months in jail, followed by three years of probation.

Noll has since been released, and Davila-Morales said he is scheduled to be in a California court Wednesday for a restitution hearing in that case.

Authorities could arrest Noll at the hearing and send him to Utah if officials arrange it, Los Angeles Sheriff's Department Sgt. Carmen Arballo said.

It's not clear whether such a move is being coordinated, but Matt Bates, a prosecutor in Summit County, said an arrest and transfer is unlikely. His office has been working with Noll on a plea deal that prosecutors hope to have in place by Sept. 15, Noll's next scheduled Utah court date.

___

Follow Michelle L. Price at https://twitter.com/michellelprice

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-08-18-14 2236GMT



ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE

Dreweatts & Bloomsbury sold this Banksky painting in December 2013 in London for $291,326. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and Dreweatts & Bloomsbury.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 20 August 2014 09:55
 

Investigators conclude looted painting belongs to Jewish family

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Written by Associated Press   
Wednesday, 20 August 2014 09:01
A similar Max Liebermann painting: 'Two Riders at the Seashore,' 1901. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. BERLIN (AP) – Investigators say they have determined a second painting that was part of a massive trove of art found in the Munich apartment of late collector Cornelius Gurlitt was stolen by the Nazis from its Jewish owner.

Experts said in a release late Monday that Max Liebermann's Two Riders on the Beach was “with high probability” seized from businessman David Friedmann and rightfully belongs to his descendants.

Authorities disclosed in November they had seized 1,280 works from Gurlitt's apartment while investigating him for tax evasion. He had inherited the collection from his art-dealer father, who traded in works confiscated by the Nazis.

Gurlitt died in May, a month after he reached a deal with the German government for the works to be examined and those looted by the Nazis returned.

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-08-19-14 0908GMT



ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE
A similar Max Liebermann painting: 'Two Riders at the Seashore,' 1901. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 20 August 2014 09:16
 

German artists claim they switched Brooklyn Bridge flags

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Written by Associated Press   
Thursday, 14 August 2014 08:43
View of the Brooklyn Bridge from the pedestrian walkway. Image by Jim Henderson, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. NEW YORK (AP) – Two German artists have claimed responsibility for replacing American flags on the Brooklyn Bridge with faded white versions last month in an urban mystery that exposed holes in security at one of the city's most enduring landmarks.

Berlin-based Mischa Leinkauf and Mattias Wermke said Tuesday that they hoisted the hand-sewn white flags onto the 131-year-old bridge's neo-gothic stone towers as a celebration of public art in “the global center of creativity.” They said they switched the flags early on July 22 to commemorate the 145th anniversary of German-born Brooklyn Bridge architect John August Roebling's death.

In a statement, the artists said they “were careful to treat the bridge and the flags with respect,” but they didn't address potential criminal liability from the project. They said they followed U.S. Flag Code in their handling of the American flags they removed and were returning them.

The New York Police Department said it was aware of the artists' claims but wouldn't confirm their validity or say whether investigators had identified the artists as suspects before they came forward.

Deputy Commissioner Stephen Davis said the investigation was continuing.

If the artists have the flags, he said, “we certainly would love to have them back.”

Leinkauf and Wermke have scaled buildings, bridges and statues in a series of projects blurring the line of access to public works and spaces. In 2007, according to their website, they tied balloons to cables high above the Brooklyn Bridge roadway.

The day the flags went up, the police department's counterterrorism and intelligence chief said he believed four or five people scaled the bridge's towers and swapped the flags in the dead of night.

Deputy Commissioner John Miller said the people involved appeared to use aluminum cooking sheets to cover the lamps illuminating the American flags that usually fly there before hoisting their bleached white replacements.

Video footage of the security breach shows the people walking on the bridge's footpath at about 3:10 a.m., and the light on the bridge's Brooklyn tower flickers and goes dark about 20 minutes later, Miller said. The same thing happens about 12 minutes later on the Manhattan tower, he said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has called the security breach “a wake-up call.”

The NYPD has officers stationed overseas, but Davis did not say whether there are any in Berlin. He said a potential arrest involving suspects from Germany would be done through Interpol, the international police organization.

The German artists, who first made their claim of responsibility to The New York Times, said they were flooded with media inquiries and wouldn't be able to immediately respond to an interview request.

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-08-13-14 0011GMT



ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE
View of the Brooklyn Bridge from the pedestrian walkway. Image by Jim Henderson, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Last Updated on Thursday, 14 August 2014 09:06
 
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