The Story of a Dinosaur Named SUE (cont.)
Part 6 - Final Chapter
May, 2000 - It is now eight years ago that SUE, the T. rex, was seized from the fossil preparatory at Black Hills Institute, and seven and a half years since I first wrote this report for Gakken Magazine. A great deal has happened since then. The Institute suffered yet another seizure and subsequent subpoenas. We lost our custody battle, and ultimately, ownership of SUE.
The court ruled that SUE was "real estate". Like many native Americans living within the borders of the reservation, Maurice Williams had placed the title to this particular parcel of land, in "trust" with the Department of the Interior, and thus avoided paying property taxes. Since Maurice had not received written permission to sell this "land" the court ruled the sale null and void. (We had paid $5000 for the fossil we discovered. Maurice later claimed this was payment only for access to his property.) We appealed the decision to the Eighth Circuit Court of appeals, which upheld the District Courts decision. We appealed to the Supreme Court, but they declined to hear the case.
Meanwhile, the government brought a 39 count, 153 charge indictment against the Institute, Terry Wentz, Bob Farrar, Neal and myself, plus an individual we purchased fossils from and another individual we sold fossils to. After an eight week trial, the longest criminal trial in South Dakota History, most charges were acquitted. I was found guilty of two customs violations for "failure to fill out forms" and sentenced to two years in federal prison. Fortunately, I was the only defendant to go to jail.
Maurice Williams, with the blessings of the United States government, decided to put SUE up for auction to the highest bidder. Sotheby's Auction House in New York City, agreed to act as broker. On October 5, 1997, SUE was placed on the block. She sold for an incredible $8.36 million. After Sotheby's commission, this left $7.6 million for Maurice - tax free, it turns out, because these were the proceeds of a trust!
This story does have a happy ending, however. Although we had a benefactor at the auction who was unable to top this record bid, SUE was won by a truly great museum. The Field Museum in Chicago, Illinois, is SUE's new home.
On May 17, 2000, the museum unveiled SUE's mounted skeleton. More than two years of work and additional millions of dollars have brought SUE's bones out of her prison of boxes, plaster and rock. She stands now in all her glory, almost as pristine as she was sixty-five million years ago. To my delight, I have been offered the honor of being invited to continue my research on this, the largest, best preserved, and most complete T. rex skeleton ever discovered.
SUE T. rex Story
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