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TOPIC: Petersburg man pleads guilty to damaging battlefield

Petersburg man pleads guilty to damaging battlefield 7 years 6 months ago #5230

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Petersburg man pleads guilty to damaging battlefield


RICHMOND, VA. - A Petersburg man whose house was searched earlier this year, revealing a potentially explosive Civil War-era artillery shell, has pleaded guilty to federal charges of unlawfully taking Civil War relics from the Petersburg National Battlefield.

In U.S. District Court in Richmond, John Jeffrey Santo pleaded guilty on Tuesday to two counts of damaging archaeological resources, each of which carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, and one count of depredation of government property, with a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

Santo originally was charged with three counts of damaging archaeological resources and one count each of depredation of government property, theft of government property and unlawful possession of a firearm. He will remain in federal custody while awaiting sentencing at a date to be determined.

According to court documents, Santo was accused of illegally excavating Civil War artifacts at the Petersburg park on several occasions between September 2007 and December 2010. On Feb. 10, 2011, federal officials including park rangers searched Santo's home in the 1800 block of Oakland Street in Petersburg. There, according to a court filing, they found "in excess of 9,000 war relics and artifacts including bullets, buckles and assorted ordnance."

Officers also found Santo's "hand-written journal for the time period of 2006 through 2010 recounting his activities on a daily basis involving relic-hunting in the park," court documents state.

The journal listed details of Santo's relic finds and corroborated rangers' reports of spotting him in the park with a metal detector. For example, on March 27, 2009, a park intern "observed an individual matching the defendant metal-detecting within the park's boundaries. When seen, the defendant fled ... and dropped a pair of metal shears used to extract relics/artifacts from the ground, which were seized. A search of this area found 52 freshly dug holes. ..."

Santo's journal entry for that date read, "Run in (sic) with park ranger ... small pc of brass fuse 1 bTt R side."

Park rangers estimate Santo caused loss and damage in that one area of the park amounting to $17,699, including $15,666 for the value of the relics he took. In another area, he caused damage amounting to $14,133, and $6,114 in another, according to rangers' calculations.

Motion-detection cameras the rangers installed in November 2010 that captured photos of Santo and his black dog helped lead to his arrest. In December 2010, he was caught in the act of metal-detecting by Ranger Josh Peterson.

The search of Santo's Walnut Hill home last February caused a minor emergency when law officers discovered a potentially explosive Civil War-era artillery shell. The ordnance, a Union Army Schenkl shell, was a hollow piece of steel in which gunpowder would have been packed.

Petersburg National Battlefield Chief Ranger Kevin Taylor told The Progress-Index at the time that Schenkl shells are known for being unstable. It was unknown whether the shell was live, and "Due to the dangers involved, when the shell was discovered we called the Petersburg police for assistance," he said.

Petersburg police blocked off nearby streets as a precaution and the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Richmond Field Office Bomb Unit, provided assistance with the shell.

“Treasure – If it’s out there, we’re going to find it!” (Tommy Vawter)
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Re: Petersburg man pleads guilty to damaging battlefield 7 years 6 months ago #5231

That's just a shame. I don't feel sorry for the guy and I hope he gets what's comin' to'im. It's guy like this that give those who follow the laws a really bad name. I'm sure the guy knew he was breakin' the law. Now it's time to pay the piper!
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