Federal Dinosaur Smuggling Hearing Includes Judge-Prosecutor Exchange About Jurassic Park Reruns

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
June 9 2014 7:36 PM

Federal Dinosaur Smuggling Hearing Includes Judge-Prosecutor Exchange About Jurassic Park Reruns

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The Tyrannosaurus bataar skeleton, now back in Mongolia and on display.

Byambasuren Byamba-Ochir/AFP/Getty Images

Paige Williams of The New Yorker has a piece on the publication's website following up on her 2013 feature story for the magazine about the trade in stolen dinosaur bones. Williams' subject, a Florida man named Eric Prokopi, appeared in federal court last week to be sentenced for illegal fossil sales. During the hearing, an assistant U.S. attorney named Martin Bell told a judge that Prokopi's cooperation with authorities had led to the return of 18 dinosaur skeletons to their rightful home in Mongolia. The following exhange was involved:

The returned specimens included “a second Tyrannosaurus skeleton; a dinosaur called an oviraptor, which is an egg-eating thing,” Bell said. “I think a number of them stampeded in the 1996 movie ‘Jurassic Park.’ It might have been 1992. I was young and awestruck in any event, Your Honor.”
“I missed the movie,” the judge said. “Maybe I should go back to see it.”
“Every now and then it airs on TNT.”
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Both of Williams' pieces are recommended for their depiction of a world that, occasional Jurassic Park jokes aside, is serious business: Prokopi, who lied to customs authorities about the provenance of a Tyrannosaurus bataar skeleton, was sentenced to three months in prison after an investigation that involved the seizure of $1 million-plus worth of materials and the intervention of the government of Mongolia. And while Prokopi indisputably broke the law, he's also not an entirely unsympathetic figure—a lifelong fossil enthusiast working in a field that until recently seems to have barely been noticed by authorities in any country, including Mongolia itself. Read Williams' original story here.

Ben Mathis-Lilley edits the Slatest. Follow @Slatest on Twitter.

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