A man who was accused of stealing the thumb from a 2,000-year-old terra cotta statue during a holiday party at Philadelphia’s Franklin Museum has accepted a plea deal that will save him from a possible 30-year prison sentence, according to the Philly Voice.
In 2017, Michael Rohana, a guest at an after-hours “ugly sweater” holiday party held at the museum, slipped into a roped-off exhibition of Chinese terra cotta warriors that were found at the tomb of Qin Shi Huang, China’s first emperor. Surveillance footage showed that, after taking a selfie with a statue of a cavalryman, Rohana broke something off one of the statues.
An FBI investigation was underway shortly after museum staff realized the statue’s thumb was missing. Before long, federal investigators questioned Rohana at his home, and he handed the thumb, which he had “stashed in a drawer,” over to the authorities.
The original charges against Rohana—theft and concealment of an object of cultural heritage from a museum—were dropped as part of his plea deal. Rohana, who lives in Delaware, is expected to plead guilty to interstate trafficking, which comes with a possible two-year sentence and a $20,000 fine.
During his trial, in April 2019, Rohana admitted that stealing the thumb was a drunken mistake that his lawyer described as “youthful vandalism,” according to the BBC. The jury, unable to come to a consensus on the severe charges against him, deadlocked, which led to a mistrial.
According to the BBC, government officials in China “strongly condemned” the museum for being “careless” with the terra cotta statues and asked that Rohana be “severely punished.” The Philadelphia City Council sent the Chinese people an official apology for the damage done to the statue, which was on loan to the Franklin from the Shaanxi Cultural Heritage Promotion Center.
Rohana is due for sentencing in Philidelphia’s federal court on April 17.