Theft of terra-cotta warrior thumb subject of federal trial in Philly

Ian Bush
April 02, 2019 - 9:13 pm
HAIKOU, Feb. 15, 2018 (Xinhua) -- Photo taken on Feb. 15, 2018 shows Terra-Cotta Warriors during an exhibition of "Civilization of Qin (221-207 B.C.) and Han Dynasties (206 B.C.- 220 A.D.)" in Hainan Museum in Haikou, south China's Hainan Province.

Xinhua/Sipa USA via USA TODAY NETWORK

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The theft of a thumb from a 2,000-year-old statue is the subject of a federal trial this week in Philadelphia.

Michael Rohana is accused of breaking off - and walking off with - the digit from one of the terra-cotta warriors loaned by China to the Franklin Institute for an exhibit in 2017 and 2018. 

The museum's assistant director of collections, Susannah Carroll, testified Tuesday she was "horrified" when she noticed in early January that the cavalryman's thumb was gone. Security footage revealed it went missing during an after-hours party on Dec. 21. 

Court documents show the FBI recovered the thumb from Rohana's home in Bear, Delaware.

Prosecutors argue the digit is of substantial cultural and monetary value. Rohana's defense attorneys attempted to highlight what they contend were security lapses at the Franklin Institute.

Both are key elements of the federal charges, including theft of an object of cultural heritage from a museum.

Rohana is in his mid 20s and could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.