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Fossil Dealer Fires Back in Custody Battle Over Dinosaur Skeleton

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Two months ago, a judge in New York granted a request by the U.S. government issued a warrant for the arrest of one Tyrannosaurus bataar. The dinosaur's skeleton, which Dallas-based Heritage Auctions had attempted to sell the previous month, was suspected of being in the country illegally, having been illegally smuggled out of its native Mongolia and snuck past customers into the United States. The dinosaur was taken into custody without incident.

Heritage was none too thrilled to have its $1.05 million auction invalidated, nor was Eric Prokopi, the Florida fossil dealer who had put the specimen up for auction. In a court filing reported yesterday by the Associated Press, attorneys for Prokopi argue that the dinosaur forfeiture suit should be dismissed.

In a filing that cites everything from the Mongolian Constitution, scholarly texts like Theropods from the Cretaceous in Mongolia in the Age of Dinosaurs in Russia and Mongolia, and court cases such as United States v. An Antique Platter of Gold, the attorneys argue that the federal government far overstepped the law in seizing the skeleton, which, by the way, was not stolen, helped along the way by "a media campaign stirred up by academic paleontologists" that damaged Prokopi's reputation and ultimately robbed him of the year he spent assembling the fossil.

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