Federal prosecutors will retry thumb thief

Ian Bush
May 16, 2019 - 1:47 pm

Courtesy of The Franklin Institute

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — It was never a matter of if Michael Rohana took the thumb from a 2,000-year-old cavalryman statue — he admitted as much.

But federal prosecutors in Philadelphia aren't letting the "thumb thief" off the hook that easy.

They will retry 25-year-old Rohana for stealing a thumb from a Chinese terra cotta warrior exhibit at the Franklin Institute in 2017.

“Of course we intend to retry this case,” said U.S. Attorney William McSwain in a statement. “The kind of brazen theft of priceless antiquities alleged here violated the public trust and will never be tolerated. To have an ancient relic survive intact for more than two millennia, only to be stolen and defaced here in Philadelphia, is an embarrassment to our City.”

Federal prosecutors did not provide a comment.

It's not clear when Rohana, from Bear, Delaware, will be back in court to face charges of theft and concealment of an object of cultural heritage from a museum. 

The first trial ended with a deadlocked jury.

His defense attorneys argued what happened didn’t warrant a federal case. Rohana was just a "drunk kid," they said, who made a stupid mistake, which appeared to have resonated with most of the jury. 

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They split 7-5 in favor of acquittal.

Rohana faces up to 20 years in prison if he is convicted of the charges.