Burial cave looter faces state charges
The Kona man was convicted in federal court of helping a man remove artifacts
HILO » A Kona man who pleaded guilty under federal law to conspiring to sell stolen Hawaiian artifacts from the Kanupa burial cave on the Big Island has been indicted by the state on a similar charge.
Daniel Taylor was indicted yesterday by a Big Island grand jury on a first-degree theft charge, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $25,000.
"The state of Hawaii views any looting of Hawaiian burial sites as extraordinarily serious," said Attorney General Mark Bennett.
Taylor previously pleaded guilty to violating the federal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990. He is awaiting sentencing.
Another defendant in the federal case, John A. Carta, was sentenced in February to a year in prison, but he died before beginning the sentence, said Edward Ayau, of Molokai.
Edward Halealoha Ayau's group, Hui Malama I Na Kupuna O Hawaii Nei, had been in charge of "repatriating" or returning museum objects to the cave from which they were taken by collector J.S. Emerson in 1858.
Those items, believed to number 157, were eventually placed in two museums, the Peabody Essex Museum in Massachusetts and the Bishop Museum in Honolulu.
During the 1990s, under the then-new federal law, Ayau's group sought their return. It received the Bishop collection in 1997 and the Peabody Essex collection early this decade, and returned all of the objects to Kanupa Cave.
According to information from the federal cases, Carta led Taylor, a dealer in collectible items, to the cave in North Kohala on June 17, 2004, and helped him remove items.
Carta admitted that Taylor paid him $200 and gave him an old car in exchange. Taylor sold at least two of the stolen items, including a fisherman's bowl for $2,083.
Ayau said from the beginning that Carta did not have enough knowledge to initiate the looting of the cave.
"How did they get to a particular cave? Somebody told them, and that somebody is still running loose who masterminded this," he said.
Bennett said it is "conceivable" that investigators will develop additional information leading to more charges.