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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Aired December 20, 2014 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TERRY WENTZ, PALEONTOLOGIST: You go out in the field, and you look up in the sky, and you see the stars, and some of that light that's coming down to your eye has been traveling for millions of years. So you look up, and you're looking at the past, and then you look down, and you're looking at the past. You know, those dinosaur bones are, like millions of years old, and that light left there maybe at the same time that you're looking -- it's just you're kind of sandwiched in that world, and it's really -- really a wonderful place being out in the field.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a brilliant story, I mean, if you didn't have to live it like the Larsons did.
It's a good American tale. Unfortunately, it had a bad ending for a couple real brilliant paleontologists.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What does that white line mean, Susan?
PETER LARSON, PALEONTOLOGIST: We'd been digging at the Ruth Mason Quarry since 1979. The 1990 season, I think we were into the third month. We'd been working north -- actually not working at the quarry itself anymore. We were actually prospecting and looking for fossils. We were looking for fossils on Sharky Williams' and his brother Maurice Williams' ranch and finding some pretty cool stuff. And we get up on August 12, look outside the tent, and it's foggy. It's kind of a weird thing to have fog on the prairie.
So we got kind of a little bit later start. We weren't in any big hurry, because you couldn't see very well. And then went out to start loading up the Suburban. We have a 1975 Suburban all rusted out. And I look and the tire's flat. So I say, "Oh, crap." Well almost flat. Still had a little bit of air in it. So I go in the back to get the spare tire, and the spare tire's flat, so I pull out the tire pump, and the tire pump hose is broken. So we figure, "I guess we better head in to town while we still have enough air in the tire to get there."
WENTZ: We decided, "Well we're going to have to go to town." And, you know, I've been out there for five weeks.
Going to town, that's okay. I can take it easy for half an hour, an hour. That's fine with me. But of course, Susan, Susan just can't handle that. You know, that's a waste of time, right?
SUSAN HENDRICKSON, PALEONTOLOGIST: There was the flat tire. I was like, "Great. You guys go to town and don't need me. And I've got this place I want to look at."
Out there, you need landmarks to find your way around, and I said, "Okay, it's foggy. You can't see. Make sure you don't walk in a circle."
And like two hours later, I was right back where I started, and I could not believe it. I just couldn't believe it, because I was like, trying so hard to walk straight. It was like -- I felt really stupid.
I believe it was the next day we went back with the video camera and just kind of reenacted, you know, how I found her. Anybody who had any idea what a fossil versus a rock was would have seen it, because there was a lot of broken bones dribbling down. About eight foot up the side of the cliff, there were three articulated vertebrae and a couple other pieces of bones sticking out.
From the debris pile, I picked up scraps that showed the hollowness and took it with, because I knew if I went back to where they were working, they wouldn't believe me.
WENTZ: We got back after fixing the tire, and we were at the dig site. We were just finishing up doing stuff, and Susan comes up.
P LARSON: And she opens her hand, and she's got two pretty small pieces of bone, only about this big, in her hand. And I'd never seen the inside of a T. rex vertebrae before, but I knew exactly that was what she had in her hand, and I says, "Is there more of it?" She said, "There's a lot more." So we ran, literally ran back to the site.
I crawl up on the cliff face, and I see three articulated vertebrae, and from that point on, I'm absolutely certain this is going to be the best thing we ever found and it's going to be a complete T. rex.
NEAL LARSON: He called up and said, "Neal, I need you to bring a lot of plaster two-by-fours." Well it took me a day to get everything ready, and I came up, and I got up there with all these materials, and he took me over to this big cliff, and he said, "Take a look." And I looked at it, and I looked at him. I said, "Is that T. rex?" He said, "Yes, and I think it's all here."
P LARSON: And we haven't started digging or haven't moved anything around yet. We've just been looking at it and taking some pictures and trying to figure out how to proceed.
There's a real mass of bones here. Some are caught up in concretion, but most appear to be really excellently preserved. And I believe that the tail's going that way and the skull is going this way, but we're just going to have to dig it up and see.
Collecting fossils is something that's very timely. Fossils are discovered because they're weathering out, because the forces of nature, rain, winds, freezing, thawing, even snowfall, have an effect on that fossil.
Every day that it's outside is a day that it's going to destruction. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We started by picking up all these thousands of fragments of bones and bagging them, labeling them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well the plan of attack is to protect the specimen first of all, and then you go above the specimen and dig down to it so that you can get all the way around it to remove it from the cliff.
P LARSON: We basically used these ditch-digging tools, picks and shovels, to dig down that 30 feet from where I thought we could get back into the cliff face far enough to uncover what I thought would be the limits of that skeleton.
N LARSON: Probably the hardest work I've ever had to do in my life. We were doing this all in temperatures around 115 degrees everyday.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was very hard work, but it was very easy to put in a lot of energy into it, because we all wanted to see what the skeleton was going to look like. Basically, we'd take different sections so we weren't in each other's way and just kind of worked the specimen until we could start removing bones.
HENDRICKSON: You know, and every time somebody found a bone or fragments like this, just said, "the S bone." We wouldn't say, "Skull." We didn't want to jinx it.
P LARSON: Pretty early on, I hit something hard, and so, I stopped. "It's the "S" word," I said, thinking, "I bet I hit the skull."
When I got down digging and then started really working with the smaller knife, we found, as we were going down, is the back of the skull. And we're getting down, and here's this skull taking shape, and we get out on the side, and I put Terry to work on cleaning the side of the skull, because he's really our best preparator.
WENTZ: Pete let me work on part of the skull in the field, which was amazing.
P LARSON: He's working and uncovering the teeth one by one by one.
N LARSON: It was spectacular. Teeth like this just sticking right out of the skull.
P LARSON: We're like, "Oh, my God. Look at this thing. Look how huge it is. This has going to be bigger than the one at the American Museum. It's huge. It's wonderful.
We had started a long time ago naming particular dinosaurs, and the name Sue, for Susan Hendrickson, goes down in history, and I think that's a kind of a cool way to reward those amateurs who make these discoveries.
WENTZ: We were all experienced diggers. You know, it was just total focused effort. We would just work into the specimen, remove things that we could, protect the rest of it, and then take it out of the ground and get it back into the laboratory, where you can have a more controlled environment to take care of the specimen. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The amount of new things that we found and the amount of scientific information that we discovered while finding Sue was enormous.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Beautifully preserved articulated skull, articulated vertebral column up to the pelvis with the tail and shoulder blade and all this stuff and it's just like, "Holy cow." And wonderful preservation. Just fantastic bones that were just beautiful surface on them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every time we were ready to take a bone out or every time there was some new discovery, Pete would take this butcher paper out, and he mapped each and every bone one on one that we found, that was excavated.
WENTZ: Pete and I had quite a few discussions what would be fair. $5,000 is the most that anybody had ever given anyone for a dinosaur, for any fossil in the ground. So Pete wrote a check out for him and a contract that he wanted Maurice to sign.
P LARSON: And I showed it to him, and he said, "Well, we don't need to sign anything. It's just something a handshake between friends, and $5,000 is fine. I'm happy with that. And, you know, that was the most that any landowner had ever gotten.
We shook hands, and he was pretty excited about seeing it set up in the museum.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Last phase of getting Sue out of the ground, we used basically Egyptian techniques to get this large block. I mean, we had one of the block's weighed probably something close to 10,000 pounds. There was probably about 10 ton of material total that we had to load up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Once we had the skull and pelvic block and the tail vertebrae and everything else, we knew we could haul a lot of the stuff on our Bobcat trailer. We had no idea how we were going to be able to get all these other things.
My brother John had built a tandem-axle trailer earlier that year.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With that and the other pickup truck that we had there, we were able to load the fossil up. After we had built pallets underneath the fossil, we were able to schootch some plywood underneath them so that we could move it with chains and come-alongs and get it into the trailers.
N LARSON: It was and still is today the most exciting, the most wonderful excavation we have ever done. The most incredible thing we have ever done.
HENDRICKSON: The FBI is here. They're all over the place.
P LARSON: They've got yellow police tape around the main building. Do not cross. Police like, do not cross.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's hard to know what was really happening at that point.
P LARSON: I do down to the office and there's two FBI agents sitting there. You've stolen this from federal land and we're coming here to seize this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dinosaurs, for me, are still one of the most amazing creatures ever to have lived on the planet. You're touching something that was alive 65, 100, or three or more hundred million years ago. When you pick up a fossil, and you're the first ever human being to touch the remains of that organism, it's a remarkable feeling.
PHILIP CURRIE: Dinosaurs are iconic animals. They represent paleontology in general. They represent science. Dinosaurs lived for 150 million years, and they dominated the world for that long, and yet humans have only been around for three, four, or five. What are our chances? We seem to be approaching these big problems.
VINCENT SANTUCCI: Most of what is to be learned about the history of life is yet to be discovered. What's still out there? What's still in the ground? What some kids might find will a hundred years from now will contribute to that greater understanding.
LOUIE PSIHOYOS: We know nothing about the history of the planet unless learning it through a paleontologist. And this has sense of deep time, real deep time, that gives you a sense of who you are and how you fit in to the scheme of things.
P LARSON: I first fell in love with fossils when I was about four years old. I picked up this small tooth down on my folks' ranch. From then on, I just was so fascinated with fossils. I just couldn't stop.
N LARSON: Every day that the weather was good and every day that the weather was great that was on a weekend if we were going to school or in the summertime, Dad would always say, "Let's go out rock hunting."
P LARSON: We ended up starting this little museum, and we'd charge the adults in our family five cents. We had little displays where we set up the things that we had collected, and not just fossils and rocks, but also what we thought were antiques.
N LARSON: We had this horrible hobby that started to captivate every part of our life.
P LARSON: Eventually I decided to really get into paleontology and so went to the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City.
Junior year, we went to the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show and really saw how specimens are purchased by museums and purchased by private collectors.
And by the time we graduated, we started this business called Black Hills Minerals as this earth science supply house. Eventually my younger brother Neal, who was also a student at the School of Mines, and Bob Farrar, one of his classmates, started working with us as well.
ROBERT FARRAR: With the three of us all going to the School of Mines, we were problems there, because all of us chose not to go into industry.
N LARSON: The first year was terrible, the second year was not so good, but it was sort of turning into a business.
P LARSON: As we kept going, we kept collecting more and more fossils and had the idea of it probably would work to sell these as display specimens.
In 1978, we were going pretty strong. We were selling mostly fossils. We were going out and doing geological exploration.
N LARSON: So by 1979, we created this new entity called Black Hills Institute of Geological Research Incorporated, in the center of the Black Hills.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got Sue back to Hill City. We moved the big blocks into the warehouse, actually built a room around where we had put Sue, started working on this wonderful fossil.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I was prepping Sue, I was cloistered like a monk in the back corner of the back building. Doing preparation, "You just leave me alone," right? But everybody was in there. There would be school kids in there. Or another day, there'd be, you know, some scientist guys coming along in there.
I mean, Pete had, like, 30 scientists working on a major new monograph on Tyrannosaurus Rex, so you got to suck it up. Pete wants it this way. He wants this specimen available to everybody.
LYNN HOCHSTAFFL: It was so beautiful. Just the preservation was incredible. It was just, "Wow."
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everybody knew about Sue. We hadn't made any secret of the fact that we'd collected her.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had 2,000 visitors sign this little guest book that went way in the back in our warehouse to see the skull of Sue.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was just totally flabbergasted when I saw the specimen. First of all, the size is just so imposing. But what I was more amazed by was what a great job they were doing preparing the specimen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd heard inklings that the Black Hills Institute boys had found something. One of the first things I saw was actually, you know, part of the skull of Sue still encased in matrix.
Sixty-five million years later, this animal really had the power to give you goose bumps. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To see the look on Pete's face and Neal's, those guys were just like proud papas. They would inform you. They would go do classes at school for the kids, so it was very educational for all of us, and I learned a lot from that.
P LARSON: Ever since we created that little museum on our parents' ranch, it's always been our dream to have a museum here in Hill City.
And finding Sue the Tyrannosaurus Rex, here's the anchor for the museum.
The whole town is behind us. It's going to put Hill City on the map in a way that it's never been on the map before.
N LARSON: Didn't matter how many other projects we had going on. With Sue, Sue took precedence. We found out all kinds of cool things about this dinosaur. Broken and healed bones all over the skeleton. This animal had a terrible life, a terrible, rough life.
P LARSON: The skull of Sue had actually had -- the left side of the lower jaw had been literally ripped out of the socket, still held together here at the symphysis, where the two ends of the lower jaw come together in the front, but it's been torn loose from the socket which allows the jaw to open and close. And the postorbital, the bone directly behind the eye, was broken and pulled outwards and laying at sort of a weird angle. So I think that she actually died from the attack of another Tyrannosaurus Rex.
WENTZ: That was a big job. I mean, it took me a year, literally a year just to, you know, remove individual bones from around the skull and then to take that, the giant hip bones off of the (inaudible).
We finally were able to lift the pelvis off of Sue's skull in the beginning of May, 1992.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Okay. Let's go. Up, let's go.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Taking that hip off of Sue's skull was critical to doing it right, because you don't have a second chance.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You OK there, Terry?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.
WENTZ: If you think of two big ships, you know, when you get those kind of weights going on, one little movement, you don't what's going on.
It could be cracking all the way through inside.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, go.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah. That must be where the weight is.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, it's looking good.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're at three here. We're at three here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, we're loose in the front finally!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah.
WENTZ: That moment, when we made that separation, that was probably the highest point of my life.
N LARSON: We were riding on top of the world. We had everything going -- less than a week after that, all hell broke loose.
Bob and I were downstairs. We were both in the prep lab. We had a buzzer on our door so that if anybody came in, it would buzz back in the prep lab and we could go meet them in the front office. It was about 7:00 in the morning when the buzzer went off.
We were met by two FBI agents with a search warrant to take Sue and all records belonging to Sue.
P LARSON: They showed up expecting to seal off the building and keep anybody from going in.
N LARSON: Just wait here. We have to get Pete.
HOCHSTAFFL: They sent me to get Pete, and I was running.
P LARSON: I lived in a trailer house behind the Institute.
HOCHSTAFFL: The FBI's here. They're all over the place.
P LARSON: They've got yellow police tape around the main building.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "Do not cross. Police line. Do not cross."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was hard to know what was really happening at that point.
P LARSON: I go down to the office, and there's two FBI agents sitting there.
"You've stolen this from federal land and we're coming here to seize this."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got a phone call from Peter Larson, because it wasn't just the FBI. It was personnel from South Dakota Tech. It was personnel from other federal agencies, and it was the National Guard.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The U.S. Attorney at the time, Kevin Schieffer, got reporters together in the Federal Building in Rapid City and announced that the seizure was ongoing.
KEVIN SCHIEFFER, U.S. ATTORNEY: The purpose of our action this morning is to preserve the scientific knowledge and integrity of these fossils.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Then of course the entire press corps hopped in their cars, and we drove to Hill City.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were supposed to take things related to Sue, but they took everything. They went through all of our offices, all of our desks, all of our mail trays, taking mail opened, unopened.
WENTZ: Somebody called me and said, "The FBI's got crime scene tape around the Institute, and they're taking Sue." I hung up the phone, and I went as fast as I could down to the Institute.
I don't know how many agents they had, 30-some people or whatever. It's just insane. I didn't even think about it. I grabbed the tape and go under it. I just went to the specimen. That was my concern. I could just see these idiots. You know, just try to pack up my dinosaur and take it away and ruin it.
P LARSON: How dare they? How dare these people do this?
Unconscionable. I can't imagine somebody being able to do this here in the United States of America, in a free country.
N LARSON: In order to ensure that this dinosaur could be carefully packed up, we helped.
FARRAR: It was pretty clear that they didn't know what they were doing. These people didn't know anything. I mean, most of these guys hardly go out in the field at all. What do they know about preparing a fossil or packing it or anything?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Larsons were trying to do a little bit of negotiating. "Put Sue under lock and key at our place to prevent damage."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I said to Kevin Schieffer, "You just tell me, and that fossil won't go anywhere. It's not like it's going to disappear in a briefcase."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That request was denied.
SCHIEFFER: It is clearly a violation under the Antiquities Act to remove antiquities from United States lands without the permission of the United States.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The federal government doesn't show up with the National Guard and an Assistant or pardon me, an acting United States Attorney in pancake makeup, with the intention of working things out somewhere down the road.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After we got over the initial shock, those of us who were packing the dinosaur kind of went into our packing mode, but towards the end of the day, it became obvious that something was going on with the town.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People around town noticed. They noticed all the cop cars. They noticed the police tape.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of a sudden, there were people with signs out in front of our building. It was clear that people were not happy with what was going on.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The protest developed very quickly, so there were a lot of people on the street.
PSIHOYOS: I was working for "National Geographic," and we were going to take the skull of Sue and put it into a CAT scanner with the use for the space shuttles to see if we could see inside the skull of Sue. And Terry Wentz answered the phone, and he said, "Well, I don't think so." So I got on the next plane I could, and other place was surrounded by cops. I mean, you thought that there was, like, a real T. rex loose on the property.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The next day in, they brought reinforcements, a lot more people.
HAROLD SYKORA, RET. MAJOR GENERAL IN THE NATIONAL GUARD: The idea was that we were going to load this stuff up and haul it somewhere. And when the Director of Military Support, one of the Colonels got down there, he called and said, "Hey, General, this is not what we expected. This is a media event. We got school kids out here. We got parents out here. What should we do?" And I said, "Well, just go do it."
P LARSON: All day long, the protestors kept arriving.
N LARSON: Protesting about what the government was doing.
PSIHOYOS: Kids protesting, adults protesting. It was not the sort of public relations event that, you know, law enforcement likes, because they're taking away this T. rex from a very small town that really could use it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You could not have discovered this rex in a worse and potentially legally complicated place. It wasn't tribal land. It wasn't federal land. It was a really -- Sue came out from an absolute legal netherworld.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On the third day, the National Guard had brought up large equipment, including forklifts and things, and the crowd had grown by this time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People were so emotionally involved.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The amazing thing to me was it wasn't just us. The whole town, entire town of Hill City was in mourning when they took that dinosaur away. P LARSON: There was a dream that the town had. It was our dinosaur. It was our museum. It was our lives that had been just torn to pieces.
HENDRICKSON: I was in France, and they called me, and, you know, I thought it was a joke. Couldn't believe it, and I cried.
WENTZ: I was highly emotional, but from that moment that I heard that the specimen was going to be taken, my focus was on the specimen. Legally and all that other crap, that's not my concern. My concern was to make sure that dinosaur was going to transport -- everything was going to be safe.
P LARSON: Sue belonged here, and what happened was not right.
HOCHSTAFFL: You know, it was like a funeral, losing a family member. It just felt like a nightmare, like it just wasn't really happening. Because...
N LARSON: The place was a mess. We all of a sudden, we're a mess. And they hauled Sue away.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know how Peter did it. One of the hardest things to watch and be a part of was knowing that literally Peter was in love with that dinosaur.
KRISTINE DONNAN, PETER LARSON'S EX-WIFE: I grew up in Hill City, and I lived in Los Angeles at the time Sue was discovered. In 1992, I was working at "Unsolved Mysteries," a TV show on NBC, researching cases where people convicted of crimes insist they were innocent. And that first day the dinosaur was seized, Pete called me on the phone in the middle of it all.
He said the FBI was here, and it was dramatic and scary, and he needed coverage. He needed support. So I thought, well, I'll go cover the story and take a hiatus and maybe move away from L.A. forever. I didn't know, but I just packed up and bailed back to South Dakota by the end of the year to cover the story and see what was going to happen to it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: America's Indian tribes have fought the white man over many different issues through the years, but the newest fight is over a dinosaur.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a big story and a very unusual story. They have the federal government come in and seize Sue, everything exploded.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Controversy tonight.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Controversy surrounding the Institute and their most famous discovery.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It may be the custody battle of the century. Scientists, Indians, the U.S. government.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You find any fossils, the government may take them away.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not only has he taken this dinosaur away, but he's taken our research away too, every photograph, every record we had about this dinosaur and the locality where she was found.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sue was seized pursuant to a search warrant, but there was never a crime charged.
P LARSON: Pat and I talked about filing suit. You know, we sued the federal government for return of our property.
DONNAN: The Black Hills Institute said it purchased the fossil from Maurice Williams. Originally Maurice Williams said that too, but then he changed his claim, and he said he had not sold the fossil and that he owned it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Williams...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pete and Neal had made a deal with Maurice Williams for $5,000.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On that Saturday, the day before we finished getting Sue out of the ground, that we gave Maurice Williams a check for $5,000, that said for "Theropod Sue" on the bottom of the check.
P LARSON: Even though $5,000 may not seem like a lot, it was a lot of money for our company to spend, and no one had ever paid that much for an undiscovered fossil before.
We had lots of conversations with Maurice Williams about what was happening to the dinosaur. He knew that we were going to bring it back to Hill City. He was completely in favor of that. He knew about the museum we were building. He knew we were going to be preparing the fossil.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's about the only ones that we have.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How you going to entitle this, you know, I think you need is blah, blah, blah dinosaur and (inaudible).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it's not the only one. Almost.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Almost. And it's not completely...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And under that you will say, you have been stolen from Maurice Williams.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maurice Williams never intended to sell that fossil. Maurice Williams knew exactly what he was doing.
HENDRICKSON: Numerous people said, "Had we known you were on his ranch, we would have warned you."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had known people who knew Maurice and Sharky, and they were colorful and controversial figures in their own right on the Cheyenne River Reservation.
SANTUCCI: There began to emerge some controversy about Sue being collected from Indian land and the ownership issue.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You could not have discovered this rex in a worse and potentially legally complicated place. It was discovered within the exterior boundaries of the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe on land which was held in trust for the benefit of Maurice Williams, the landowner. Wasn't tribal land. It wasn't federal land. It was a really -- Sue came out from an absolute legal netherworld.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Indian people were given -- heads of household were given 160 acres in what we call the Allotment Acts. And that was to try and make people who didn't understand land ownership be owners of land, but they really didn't own the land. So there became this concept of trust responsibility, and nothing ostensibly is supposed to happen to that land without the approval of the federal government through the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On the reservations, the United States holds that land in trust for the individual Indian as the beneficiary. And the United States has a judiciary responsibility to individual Indians and or their families that they get the highest and best use out of it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All across the West, it is a patchwork quilt of laws and regulations concerning what can and can't be harvested that's paleontological.
You can be all right in this quarter section, but if you get off a little bit -- remember this is before GPS. If you get off a little bit to the wrong place, you might be dealing with a whole another set of regulations.
DONNAN: The tribe claimed that because Maurice Williams, being a member of the tribe, had not purchased a $100 permit to sell something, the fossil should be forfeited and therefore they owned the fossil. And of course the government said that it was government property and that that was because of the trust land issue.
P LARSON: The seizure and the subpoena were the brainchild of Acting U.S. Attorney Kevin Schieffer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was a controversial figure as a U.S. Attorney, because he hadn't had lot of experience practicing law. He had the ability to drive some people crazy.
SCHIEFFER: I do have a fair amount of litigation experience. I have not had courtroom experience.
P LARSON: It's a little unclear as to why Schieffer decided to seize Sue or decided to become interested in this at all, whether it began with Maurice Williams or a complaint from the tribe. Ultimately the decision was Kevin Schieffer's, though, to decide that this was something that they wanted to do. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Also was shocking from a scientific standpoint, that anybody would behave so recklessly with the greatest paleontological find of all time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If that dinosaur seizure wasn't a publicity stunt, then I don't know what is. There could have been a gang in this town with a warehouse holding a ton of cocaine and human bodies hanging from the rafters, and the federal government would not have sent 35 agents and the National Guard.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sue wasn't a part of what we were looking at or what was being looked at as far as potential criminal violations.
There were so many bones, so many animals, so many invertebrates that were taken off from public lands, taken internationally, sold internationally. There was way more than we ever could have investigated. The case was never wanting for not having Sue.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just a few of them Bumper stickers?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's some in every vehicle.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We would just like to gain public support for our cause of getting Sue back to Hill City.
WENTZ: When you get the big foot of the government come in and do something like that, you better answer in a way that people can understand that this is wrong. You know, they just protested for three straight days in front of the Institute during the raid. They weren't done. "We want to protest." OK. Let's go protest.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stay back. Everyone stay back. You'll be thrown to the ground and arrested. We got everything under control here. We don't want any trouble.
N LARSON: We had people from all over the community, all over the Black Hills trying to help, and it was amazing, the support that we had.
WENTZ: We were fighting on every front we could think of, everything that you could think of, everything from the Sue Freedom Run to petitions we took to the state capitol. I would talk in front of groups anywhere.
P LARSON: Terry was so involved in this case. I mean, he lived it.
One of the most moving things in my life to see, this wonderful group of people here supported us getting Sue back.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The U.S. Attorney, Mr. Kevin Schieffer, made a terrible error in coming that tragic day on May 14th to Hill City. The right thing to do in this case would be to return the dinosaur to Hill City.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whoa. Yes, yes. Whoo.
P LARSON: We got now over 20,000 signatures on the one petition, the first petition to bring Sue back. And they're from all 50 states and from 14 other countries.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lot of people didn't have a lot of money here, so they wanted to contribute any way they could do that, and so there were a lot of fund-raisers, parades, buttons, posters, a show of maybe there's justice, because, I think, to me, it was just a huge injustice the fact they could even do what they've done.
DONNAN: The custody battle was in full swing, and it was very dramatic and scary for people. And as I interviewed Pete and talked with him, I realized at that time I'd never met anybody like him in his single-minded pursuit of what he believed was right. And also, in the flurry of emotions, I thought that meant that he was the perfect guy for me, and so despite the fact that I was writing about him and he should be my subject, I broke the first rule of journalism and fell in love with my subject.
So we started dating, and in our emotional ridiculousness, got married really quite quickly, within months of my moving here. But it was okay. It was okay for what was going on there. And so we traversed this together, and I had created for myself the additional burden of trying to be a journalist and separate my personal feelings from my job.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two federal courts have sided with the government, saying Sue should stay in the box because there's no proof the dinosaur is being damaged there. In another federal court, they're still arguing over who actually owns the bones.
PHILIP CURRIE, PALEONTOLOGIST: The intensity reaction while the court case was going on really surprised me. There were people that I thought were quite reasonable. People who basically said things about Black Hills that just were not true.
DONNAN: There's a difference between the academic perspective of fossil collecting and the commercial perspective.
PETER LARSON, PALEONTOLOGIST, PRESIDENT, BLACK HILLS INSTITUTE OF GEOLOGICAL RESEARCH, INC.: There are some people in this profession that really, truly believe that it is -- there's something morally wrong with selling a fossil.
ROBERT BAKKER, PALEONTOLOGIST & CURATOR, HOUSTON MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY: I was indoctrinated as an undergrad, that if you don't have a PhD, you have no right to a collect dinosaurs. I heard about them. Phi and Peter Larson collecting fossils and I was told, these are pirates.
And I visited Pete Larson and I visited the Black Hills Institute. And they weren't pirates at all. They had techniques they taught my crew. They were better than my crew.
LOUIE PSIHOYOS, FILMMAKER: You have the academias and you have these little -- these fights, and now here's these really great paleontologists that don't need that system.
DONNAN: Back in the day in the early 1900s, "commercial collectors", quote-unquote, were filling museums with specimens and working hand in hand with, quote, "academic people." That was an OK relationship. Around in the '70s and '80s, that changed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 1980s, we're already seeing this schism between professional commercial collectors versus professional research collectors.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This race to discover the earth's past is a very exciting one and people want a piece of it.
P. LARSON: Sue had back a living entity to me after all our work in the field and what we were finding out about her life. And I really missed her when she was gone. So one way that I was able to sort of help that was to go and visit her and to talk with her through the window, looking at the container, so I could see her, see that that container is still there. Not moved to some other place in Timbuktu or something. And just kind of have some little conversations with her.
DONNAN: It was precious. It was sweet. She was his person. And later, I would realize, she's more of his person than any other person has ever been and ever will be. I got to say, that that dinosaur and Pete Larson were made for each other. And so he had to go talk to her. And that was what -- how it should be.
P. LARSON: Mostly I was trying to reassure her that she wasn't going to rot in that case, that I was going to spring her free. Somehow I was going to get her out of there.
DONNAN: As that whole custody battle unfolded, firstly, the tribe lost its own case in tribal court, which is pretty surprising. But evident that it was a bad claim. The government actually retracted its claim because it realized it couldn't claim trust property. So then it comes down to two people. Is it Morris' fossil or is it Black Hills Institute's fossil?
Every single filing the institute made I really believed would win because it was so clear, they had purchased it, he had accepted the check, he had been on videotape talking about it. It was very clear that he thought he had sold the fossil at the time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Judge Battey held that a fossil, unlike an archaeological find, had become -- the bones had become mineralized, therefore the fossil was land. An individual Indian cannot sell land that the government holds in trust for him without the permission of the federal government to begin with. So that's what ended it. Fossils are land.
STANDARD: Judge Battey said actually in his filing that the sale was null and void.
VINCENT SANTUCCI, PALEONTOLOGIST & SENIOR GEOLOGIST, U.S. NATIONAL PARK SERVICE: The federal government took the position that he had no authority himself to enter into an agreement with the Black Hills Institute.
DONNAN: Peter realized that he could not have his fossil back. He was devastated.
P. LARSON: The judge decided that Sue was real estate. Sue, the fossil, was real estate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I first got involved in the dinosaur case, as we call it, sometime late 1992, early 1993. And of course they're not going to like what we're doing. That's the nature of what we do. But hopefully in the broader spectrum, people can look at it and say, well, I'm glad people can't just go out into the forests or go out on to the parks and you know, take these fossils, or in this particular case, or steal stuff off from land, and somebody's going to do something about it. Well, we're the somebody that does something about it.
PETER DODSON, PALEONTOLOGIST: After the seizure of the Sue specimen, we continued to look at this issue, not from a park service jurisdiction perspective, but more from the circumstances of business practices in terms of collecting on public lands.
BOB FARRAR, GEOLOGIST: You really can't do anything in any kind of a business without money. What monetary transactions happen during a time that this enterprise had that fossil and then what did they do with that fossil, sell it? What happened to that money. And then how we can assemble the evidence around that fossil to see whether there's something there that's wrong, chargeable, what more needs to be investigated.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: FBI agents arrived here in Hill City. They presented the Black Hills Institute with a court order. That order demanded the release of more information. But the people at the institute have another name for it. They call it harassment.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It should not be allowed to happen. This is the United States of America.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: So far, no criminal charges have been filed in the case. Members of the institute say they're innocent and are hoping that a new administration will put an end to their legal fight over Sue.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Institute officials thought their problems were over when Kevin Schieffer was replaced as U.S. attorney, but apparently they continue to be the target of the federal government.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a federal search warrant issued by the U.S. district court and we're serving a search warrant.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The enormous amount of money that the government is spending to put one person or one group of people out of business, that's so vital to a community.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: It's been nearly 18 months since Sue was seized from this warehouse and still no charges have said filed against the institute.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Allow us some rights. Charge us with something. Let's go to court. Let 12 people decide.
SUSAN HENDRICKSON, FIELD PALEONTOLOGIST: I couldn't give them any information to help incriminate people at Black Hills Institute. They thought I was going to be able to tell them all sorts of terrible things the institute did. Well, they didn't do anything wrong.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They talked to my attorney about, you better get your guy in, and bring him on in, or last chance happening pretty soon, and my attorney says, he just doesn't have anything to tell you.
HENDRICKSON: For three years, I had no contact with the Institute. That's horrible. I mean, I considered them best friends and I even couldn't call them up.
FARRAR: Sue was probably the impetus for the government following up with a criminal prosecution.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sue wasn't a part of what we were looking at or what was being looked at, as far as potential criminal violations. There were so many bones, so many animals, so many invertebrates that were taken off of public lands, taken internationally, sold internationally. There were way more than we could have ever investigated. The case was never wanting for not having Sue.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because so much material had been seized, I think everybody thought that there would be a massive indictment.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Tell me a little bit about today's indictment. What alleged activity are we exactly talking about?
BAKKER: This indictment charges the theft of fossils off of a number of different types of federal land. There are also charges in there that pertain to money laundering, structuring of currency transactions, false statements made to various government agencies.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The indictments were an avalanche of charges. And it was just a massive document and it looked like a death blow to the institute.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The government went just nuts or something, you know? I mean, I guess they just threw everything in and hoped something would stick.
P. LARSON: If you add up the time served for each of those counts, it comes to 353 years for me, which is longer than Jeffrey Dahmer was sentenced to prison for. And he killed and ate like 13 people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, it doesn't make sense. A lot of these accusations or things that we know were legal. NEAL LARSON, PALEONTOLOGIST & PRESIDENT, LARSON PALEONTOLOGY
UNLIMITED: 38 felony indictments, for collecting fossils?
HENDRICKSON: It totally blew me apart. I'm used to fixing things, and this was unfixable. It was so stupid.
DONNAN: Once you start to understand the indictments, basically this is what they said. Pretend we're in Wyoming and we're standing in the middle of the prairie and let's assume for a moment that the fence is in the right place. You're standing on this side of the fence, the government says, right over there, on the other side of the fence, this is fabulous fossil.
And they're basically saying that Pete and Neal and Bob and whoever was out there would go step over the fence, wrongly, knowingly pick up the fossil, that they're not supposed to pick up. Carry it back over the fence, put it in their car. When they drive from Wyoming to South Dakota, they then have conducted an illegal act, which is called interstate transportation of stolen property.
They get back to the institute, they would make a phone call, send a fax, maybe, to Japan and say, we found the thing that we were looking for. Do you want to buy it? Well, that's wire fraud. And then if the Japanese museum were to purchase that fossil and the guys would put that money in the bank, that's money laundering.
So basically the guys were called conspirators, who were creating this very elaborate scheme to intentionally steal things and sell them illegally.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What struck me about the prosecution's case was how complex it was. People had to understand the arcane ins and outs of bringing travelers checks into the country and latitudes and longitudes on public lands. And I think they did it in an organized way, but it was a very, very complicated argument.
N. LARSON: As the months went by, things seemed to get darker and darker and darker.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For quite a while, we hoped they would gain their senses and this will just go away.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because it was so hotly contested along the way, I didn't think there would be any chance that this case would settle before trial.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By late summer '94, there were serious discussions that were going on with the U.S. attorney's office for a possible resolution.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I go out on my step one morning and bring the "Rapid City Journal" in and have a cup of coffee and right on the front page it says, plea agreement announced.
N. LARSON: Somebody spilled their guts in front of Hugo O'Gara, and he might as well have taken a gun and shot us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The article itself suggested capitulation on the part of the government. You never get a good deal done as somebody's going to be cast as having folded the tent.
DONNAN: Anybody who published that should know better. So I called Hugh O'Gara and I just said, what were you thinking? How could you do that? And he was near tears on the phone. He would not answer me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hugh would never -- obviously would not tell me who that source was. I wouldn't even ask him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The next morning, the judge called all the attorneys into the chambers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He went down the line and made each of us say that we were not responsible for the leak.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He felt that the principals at least deserved to go to jail.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He said that he would not accept the plea.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He had pre-judged the case and under two federal statutes, a judge is obligated to remove himself from sitting and hearing the rest of the case.
P. LARSON: We filed immediately, our second recusal motion. Asking the judge to step down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The thing that seems to upset Judge Battey the most is not whether he's fair, but to be challenged that he's not being fair. So he immediately denied that motion.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I knew this case was going to trial the day the Hugh O'Gara article was published in the "Rapid City Journal."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not afraid of 12 people, a jury of 12 people of our peers. I know that they'll look at this case and they'll see the ridiculous way in which the government is behaving and they will vindicate us. We're innocent of all the things that we're charged with.
P. LARSON: So in the courtroom, of course, right in front is Judge Battey on the bench. Off to the left is the jury, 12 jurors, 2 alternates. A large space in between where the lawyers get to pace and walk and show exhibits and things. And then we had the prosecution, which at times had two or three lawyers. On our side, there was a lawyer for each defendant, so there were six lawyers, and five defendants.
The sixth defendant, of course, being the Black Hills Institute. Our trial was, and still is, the largest criminal case that's ever been tried in South Dakota.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You cannot say the word "Sue" in the trial. I mean, the jurors were going, what happened to Sue? That's why they got these guys in the court system, right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The logistics of this trial were incomprehensible.
DONNAN: The institute has collected maybe a million fossils. This indictment covers 14 of them and those 14 fossils were collected from seven sites. In seven cases, in all the years these guys have been out in the field, they are accused of being in the wrong place.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The government would simply have their officials come in, whatever agency was going to be taking the lead for that particular site, and would say, I found where the specimen was collected, I knew, therefore, it was on government land.
To me, it just emphasized the ridiculous nature of this whole thing. You know, I mean, if it's 200 feet over and you don't know where you are, it would have been OK?
DONNAN: His job had been to appraise the fossils that had been seized in the case and his evaluations would be incredibly important, because they determined whether a given count was a misdemeanor or a felony. It was pretty easy in cross-examination to discover that the man had not opened the field jackets. He was -- he was telling us the values of things he had not even looked at.
HENDRICKSON: Pete and I, on one of our trips to Peru, we were taking $15,000 in cash, because down there you can't use credit cards or anything else, and he withdrew $15,000 from the bank and we split it up just in case one person got robbed, at least they wouldn't lose everything.
P. LARSON: Susan Hendrickson carried $8,000, I carried $7,000 down in one of the trips in cash. We were building a museum, paying for the bricks and mortar and doing the work ourselves with our Swiss colleagues.
HENDRICKSON: In Japan, the museums paid in cash, they always have. Didn't want to carry of bundles of cash on the plane, so we went to a bank and put it in travelers cash.
P. LARSON: They were all strictly endorsed travelers cash, all stamped for deposit only, deposited them in the bank, paid taxes on them. The prosecution had four different witnesses, all who of them testified that restrictively endorsed travelers checks do not need to be declared.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What struck me about the prosecution's case was how complex it was. People had to understand the arcane ins and outs of bringing travelers checks into the country and latitudes and longitudes on public lands. And I think they did it in an organized way, but it was a very, very complicated argument.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When the prosecution rested, I felt we had put on the evidence that we had. We had their own pictures of them taking these fossils, we had their own field notes of them collecting these fossils, we had given it 100 percent of our effort to show what they did. DONNAN: As the defense proceeded to present many fewer witnesses, to
say, look, it's not that complicated, we were collecting fossils, we thought we had permission to be there. In this case, we weren't where you thought we were, in this case you were, it's that simple.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As we were approaching the end of the trial, Neal and I both felt that it was important for him to testify.
N. LARSON: Three and a half days, I was on the witness stand. And for three and a half days, I swore to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me god.
DONNAN: Pete ended up not testifying.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The state had not proven its case. The state doesn't prove your case, your client doesn't take the stand, period.
P. LARSON: And so on the advice of counsel, I did not testify.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The jury came back today in the Hill City fossil hunter federal criminal trial. The jury said over and over again, either not guilty, or no unanimous verdict could be reached. Of over 150 charges, the jury agreed to convict only 13 times, and five of those convictions are for misdemeanor crimes.
So here is how the convictions break down. Pete Larson, co-owner and founder of the institute, is convicted on two counts of misdemeanor thefts and two felony counts of illegally transporting money in and out of a country. Brother Neal Larson found guilty of one misdemeanor theft. The jury either acquitted Neal or couldn't agree on a verdict for the others. Bob Farrar, a third co-owner of the institute, convicted of two felonies, making false statements to customs officials.
And the Black Hills Institute as a corporation is convicted of two misdemeanor thefts, a felony theft, and twice making false statements to customs officials. The jury also found the institute guilty of bringing goods into the states by making a false statement.
Defendant Eddie Coal and Terry Wentz were not convicted on any charges.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As the verdict was announced, it was almost impossible to believe that the defense had scored a great victory. However, there were some fairly significant felony convictions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The expression, you could have knocked me over with a feather, you could have knocked me over with a feather.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I talked to some jurors after the trial. Some of them were near tears when I interviewed them about how they had hoped that they could acquit on every single charge.
LANICE ARCHER, JUROR: I believe they had to have something to take this to trial, and I spent the whole trial waiting for that something. Without a doubt, the majority of the jurors wanted this whole case dropped and put away.
P. LARSON: The guard who was there, filling out the paperwork said, have you seen this? And I said, seen what? And he said, come here, and he looked at the piece of paper, and it said, reason for incarceration, failure to fill out forms. And he said, man, you must have really pissed somebody off.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Maurice Williams, the rancher who found Sue has received at least six offers to purchase the T-Rex , since the courts determined that the fossil is part of Williams trust property, any purchase must be approved by the federal government. Since Sue was seized by federal agents in 1992, the fossil has been stored at the school of mines.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARSON NEFF MUNDY, ACTOR: My first contact with Mr. Maurice Williams was when he came to Aberdeen for a series of meetings to discuss what he should do with this fossil. The idea that I had was to convene like a panel of paleontologists to do an in-depth study of this fossil with the hopes that it would end up in a museum somewhere. But in the meantime, while this is being discussed, Mr. Williams decided that he would rather sell the fossil.
DAVID REDDEN, VICE CHAIRMAN OF SOTHEBY: Maurice Williams had a stack of proposals from all sorts of people, all over the place. I mean, everybody wants it. I called up Maurice and I said I can come out to South Dakota if you want and I'll visit with you. And he said, great, and actually visited the -- boxes in which Sue was located in the South Dakota School of Mines. With Maurice's family, who had never actually been there, this is the first time they'd actually seen Sue. What one really saw inside that sort of garage area was extraordinary, almost citizen cane vigil of boxes and boxes and boxes. Maurice and I had numerous conversations. We talked about the responsibility involved in dealing with this extraordinary fossil. Nothing quite like it had ever been sold before. It had to go to the right place, but adjudicating which place was the right place was complicated and the auction process, in fact, could help resolve that.
PETER LARSON, PALEONTOLOGIST: We're going into court. We'd already had an indication that the judge wasn't too pleased with us, because we'd asked him to recues himself.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was pretty clear that Judge Battey was irritated by the defense.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had to go back to the same tables with our attorneys and sit there and then stand up as Judge Battey sentenced us. He also wanted to hear that we were sorry for what we had done.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For Peter Larson, recommended guideline range for the two felonies in which he was convicted was zero to six months.
KRISTIN DONNAN, FREELANCE WRITER AND RESEARCHER: It really looked like the sentence would be minimal, probably probation. LARSON: When he did come down with the sentence, he enhanced it, so
instead of zero to six months, he sentenced me to two years in prison and two years probation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To send him to jail, to prison for two years for this offense was absolutely no justification for it.
DONNAN: It was indefensible, ugly behavior.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It just took my breath away. How could they do that?
SUSAN HENDRICKSON: This is America? This is justice? This is -- you know, the country we live in?
LOUIE PSIHOYOS, DIRECTOR: Every geographic photographer in the last 30 years would be in jail. You know, you're coming back with $10,000. Well, you report it going in, when you come back out, do you report it? No, because it's not countersigned.
ROBERT BAKKER, PALEONTOLOGIST: The reason that judge did because had been urged, he had been convinced by guys with PhD's at university museums -- it had to be done, for the safety of our science and our fossils that was totally wrong.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Peter Larson was made an example -- with that sentence.
LARSON: I don't have a real good recollection of those next few hours, I guess you might say.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Federal judge in Rapid City today sentenced Peter Larson to two years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Larson was found guilty last year of charges connected to his commercial fossil hunting business in Hill city. It's the final chapter in the case that began with the discovery of Sue, the most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex --
LARSON: Perhaps, to -- to turn myself in it, at the gate at the same prison that Timothy McVeigh was and John Gotti (ph). And I was using a cane, I could barely walk, just a few months before that, broken my leg quite badly. When I surrendered at the gate, they said, we're gonna take your cane, and I said, if you take my cane, I'm gonna fall over -- because I really couldn't stand without my cane.
DONNAN: And they said, well, let me see. And so he was stumbling around, and it was pitiful. It was so insulting, I just felt so bad for him. And I was totally powerless. There was nothing you can do.
LARSON: She was not next to tears, she was way passed that. I just broke my heart.
DONNAN: There was finally a time when the man said, get out of here. So I drove around him and then I couldn't see him anymore. And the only choice you have is to go out the driveway and turn on the desolate road and drive 10 hours, you know, home. I think I screamed for about 10 minutes, driving. It was wild. I didn't have any other choice. I just had to get it out. It was hard. It was the hardest thing I ever did, ever.
LARSON: The guard who was there filling out the paperwork said, "Have you seen this?" And I said, "Seen what?" And he said, "come here." And he looked at the piece of paper, and it said, "Reason for incarceration, failure to fill out forms." And he said, "Man, you must have really pissed somebody off."
Prison was very surreal. The thing about prison is not the fact that you're in prison so much as you are kept from your family and your friends. After a couple of weeks, I said, I have an idea. They used to have a little thing here that they called Saturday morning lectures and people who would give lectures. They aren't doing that anymore. I would like to start that up again. We've got lawyers, we've got doctors, we've got physical therapists, we've got realtors, we've got drug dealers, too, and counterfeiters, and all kinds of things like that. But, these drug dealers who have never had a different job in their life, I think would be helpful for them to learn how to do these other things.
PSIHOYOS: We went down there, you have to get clearance, you know, it's like, you're surrounded by all these -- you know, he's got a uniform with those -- you know the numbers on it and stuff. He said, well, I'm leading the debate club and I have a paleontological club that I'm working on, they have some great minerals around here. He was teaching the prisoners how to --you know, do paleontology right there on the prison ground. That's what it's like with Pete. I mean, he'll find the beauty and everything around him.
DONNAN: The other inmates loved him. It was very clear that they protected him. They not like -- you know in a movie where they beat people up for him, but just they -- took care of him in some way like, they just felt a proprietary interest for him, like he was special. And it was very sweet to see that they saw who he was.
LARSON: When finally the day came, I'm riding all night long on this bus that stops every five minutes.
DONNAN: I couldn't go pick up Pete. He had to get on a bus, a public bus.
LARSON: Because you're still technically in prison. I'm still serving my sentence. Riding in the bus, even though it was driving all night long, was great. It was my first taste of freedom for 18 months, where I'm out of the prison.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was great. It was great. He was backed home, I mean, he was under house arrest, but he was back home, we could see him.
LARSON: Eventually, I'm released from the halfway house to home confinement, where I can only go from home to work. So I get to walk across the alley every morning and across the alley back home at night, and that's it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When Pete got out of prison, he was not the person he was when he left. He was very reclusive. He was very withdrawn. DONNAN: He had to re-orient to normal interactions with people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The institute was a little gloomier. We didn't -- still didn't know how the long-term effects of this would leave us. We just had to keep plugging along and try to cope as well as we could.
LARSON: While I was in prison, Sue was also still in prison. And there were rumors that Sue was going to be auctioned off to the highest bidder.
HENDRICKSON: It really was obvious to me at that time that the only way to get her away from Maurice Williams was through Sotheby's.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of us were aware that the auction was takes place. It would probably sell for $1 million or $2 million.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The big fear was that it was going to be sold to some private individual.
MURDY: I know there were a lot of people concerned that it might be bought by an institution in a foreign country.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was a big concern with the media, was that -- it was gonna be sold and lost to science and sold and put in a private room someplace.
REDDEN: We always felt an extraordinary obligation to get this fossil to the right home. Clearly, there were a lot of really interested parties that were hoping and praying they had a chance.
LARSON: We had dreams, after the auction started developing, that perhaps we could buy her back.
DONNAN: A wonderful philanthropist from our area, Stan Adelstein, really wanted to help get sue back to South Dakota.
STAN ADELSTEIN, PHILANTHROPIST: In visiting with Pete, I was fascinated with the possibility that we'd have this fantastic dinosaur back in the state where she belonged.
DONNAN: Stan came ready and willing to spend $1.2 million of his own money.
ADELSTEIN: I just had hopes we could make it work.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's still hope, Sue will make it back home.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stanford Adelstein will bid on Sue and try to bring her home to the Black Hills.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sue that has to goes on the (inaudible) tomorrow has travelled a rocky road since she was found.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now Larson's heart is broken. He's lost his most important find and cannot even see her soul, because Larson is under house arrest. LARSON: I'm still only on work release.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So they ask me to go out there. So they flew me out to New York and I helped them kind of unpack some of the bones.
REDDEN: So much was still in jackets. We left those in jackets. We felt that was, first of all, the right thing to do, scientifically, but also, it looked fascinating, absolutely fascinating. And of course, the centerpiece of it all was that astonishing skull, absolutely amazing.
LARSON: Kristen and Stan Adelstein are there. They're going to try to buy the dinosaur for us. And Terry Wentz is there, the guy who fought for this dinosaur forever. Susan Hendricks is there. Everybody's anticipating this auction. And I'm thinking, we have a chance, we have a chance. Sotheby's had arranged for one of the people who normally would be taking bids to give me a running detail on the telephone about what was happening at the auction.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was at the institute too. I could not bear to listen to the phone. It was too much.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Goodluck, today's (inaudible) and welcome to Sotheby.
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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The day of the auction, the place is just absolutely full of excitement they had television cameras everywhere, a lot of reporters. The room was completely full.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maurice Williams was in a private room, up above the auction area, so he could watch everything going on.
LARSON: Sotheby's had arranged for one of the people who would normally be taking bids to give me a running detail on the telephone about what was happening at the auction.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was at the institute, too. I could not bear to listen to the phone. It was too much.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Sotheby's. We have for auction today the fossil of a Tyrannosaurus Rex known as Sue, property of the United States of America in trust of Maurice Williams of Faith, South Dakota. And now, let us -- if we're all ready, begin our petition for Sue the Tyrannosaurus Rex. And I now begin with a bid of $500,000. Let me get $500,000? $600,000? $700,000? At $700,000. What do you say? $800,000? $900,000? At $900,000. Now, two bids, $1 million, one in the center, one in the back. In the center, towards all the way up to $1 million. $1 million. At $1 million. Now $1.1 million. On the telephone, at $7.4, $7.4. Is there any advance over $7.4? $7,400,000 on the telephone. $7,400,000. Fair warning. $7.5.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: $7,500,000. $7,600,000? $7,600,000. Fair warning at $7,600,000 up here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Once the bidding was done, you didn't know immediately who it was. Everyone's looking around, saying, OK, who's going to come forward.
DONNAN: The bidding was exciting, despite the fact that I was horrified that it was happening.
ADELSTEIN: I raised my paddle twice and then I was out of it. There it went.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Completely shocking Sue sold that fast and the price went that high.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wasn't shocked that it went that high. I think its worth more than that.
LARSON: The most, by far, any fossil had ever sold for. And although I'm sad, I'm very sad we couldn't get it, I'm thinking -- OK, this is a statement about Black Hills Institute and the people. You guys did a good job.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your new home on the shores of Lake Michigan. That is, of course, in Chicago, at the renowned field museum.
LARSON: Sue's bones went on the auction block at Sotheby's auction house in New York. Bidding started at $500,000 and ended at $7.6 million, but totaled $8.4 million, after a fee to the auction house. McDonald's and the Walt Disney Company helped put the bill and The Field Museum of Natural History reaps the benefit, South Dakotans say, she should have stayed here.
DONNAN: Maurice Williams was there in the building and I glanced up at him, this man, supported by our government, in receiving $7 point, whatever it was million dollars, but, that fossil should have stayed in her hometown museum.
HENDRICKSON: If she wasn't going to be in Black Hills where she morally should be, Field Museum was a good place.
REDDEN: This was just the kind of place that we felt Sue had to go to.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My reaction was relief that that's the best place, where the public and scientific community will have access to it.
LARSON: I think it's probably the second best place she could have been. It's going to go where millions of people would see her. She's not going to be in prison anymore. Sue is free. And people can see her and they can get the same excitement that I have for her, and they can love her just like I do.
PSIHOYOS: To me, the dinosaur still belongs in Hill city. He's the kind of guy that can go out and find -- you know, another half of dozen more T-Rexes, but there's only one more Sue.
HENDRICKSON: In your life, you don't hope to find something that good, but we did. And it's still unbelievable to me.
DONNAN: It was time for Sue's unveiling, finally, which, support you can imagine. Pete's most exciting moment to be able to be reunited with Sue, he wasn't invited.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We go through what happened and the negative of that, but there's another negative. It's the negative of what never happened and what could have happened. And it's a damn shame. Chicago has a wonderful dinosaur, they love it, but they don't love it the way South Dakotans would have loved that dinosaur.