2 charged with taking shuttle debris...

  1. The Feds mean business!!!!

    Posted on Wed, Feb. 05, 2003

    2 charged with taking shuttle debris
    By BILL HANNA
    Fort Worth Star-Telegram

    LUFKIN, Texas - Federal officials sent a stern message to potential looters on Wednesday by indicting two people on charges of stealing debris from the space shuttle Columbia just hours after it disintegrated over Texas.

    Federal officials also offered an enticement to return stolen shuttle debris by announcing a two-day grace-period that will allow looters to avoid prosecution.

    "If they meet the 5 p.m. (Friday) deadline, both myself and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas have promised not to prosecute," said Matthew Orwig, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Texas.

    "But if they do not meet that 5 p.m. deadline, we will prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law."

    The indictments accuse 43-year-old Merrie Savage Hipp of Henderson, Texas, and 23-year-old Bradley Justin Gaudet, a student at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas, of theft of government property for stealing shuttle debris on Saturday.

    The charges carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

    The indictments came as a military helicopter hoisted Columbia's nose cone from an East Texas forest. Officials also said two pieces of the shuttle's wing had been found in Nacogdoches County. Another piece of debris found in a pond earlier this week was determined to be part of the shuttle's fuselage when it was recovered by NASA officials.

    Sleet and cold rain on Wednesday slowed the massive debris recovery effort involving 1,200 people in Texas and Louisiana. But more outside assistance was also pouring into the region, including a contingent of New York City firefighters, two members of an Israeli search and rescue team and a civil air patrol squadron from Fort Worth.

    If weather permits, members of the U.S. Air Force Auxiliary Civil Air Patrol/Fort Worth Senior Squadron will begin aerial surveys Thursday.

    As the search widens, officials continued to try to discourage people from removing debris.

    Marc Cossich, police chief for Stephen F. Austin University, said there were good reasons for Hipp and Gaudet being singled out by federal officials.

    "I think in one case it was very brazen and in the other it was what they stole," said Cossich. He declined to elaborate.

    Investigators said Hipp took a circuit board from a Nacogdoches street in front of a group of on-lookers who implored her not to remove the debris. In response, as Hipp drove off, she told the crowd she worked for NASA, police said.

    One of the onlookers photographed Hipp's license plate and used a cell phone to call police.

    Gaudet is accused of stealing a piece of "thermal barrier inner fabric," from a soccer field. He also is accused of stealing a piece of an astronaut's uniform.

    "I don't think it's any big deal," said Gaudet's roommate, Matt Benton. "There's going to be pieces of this out there in the woods for years so I don't see why they picked on him."

    The items were recovered inside the residences of Hipp and Gaudet, Cossich said.

    "I think it's important to remind people that even if this debris falls into your kitchen, it is the property of the United States government," said Michael Shelby, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Texas.

    "People have to realize that one piece could provide NASA the answer to what caused the shuttle to come down and protect the lives of other astronauts in the future. None of us knows what that piece could be, whether it's a circuit board or something that protects the shuttle as it returns to Earth."

    Shelby said 17 cases are being investigated where offers to sell shuttle debris on eBay or other Web sites were posted within hours of the crash. Orwig said his office is also investigating about 20 other shuttle debris theft cases in East Texas.

    With cold, rainy weather in the forecast for several days, Nacogdoches County Sheriff Thomas Kerss said search parties would continue to comb the area but that it might be impossible to reach some of the more heavily wooded parts. County officials were collecting cold weather gear for out-of-town volunteers to allow the search to continue through the weekend.
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  2. 7 Comments

  3. by   kaycee
    I knew this would happen. People will do anything for easy money. Wouldn't be surprised to see stupid people trying to sell this stuff on Ebay.
  4. by   deespoohbear
    You mean like this?


    http://allnurses.com/forums/showthre...threadid=30361

    Scumsuckers!!!
  5. by   oramar
    That person who said that some of the debris would lay undiscovered for years got a point. I hope they are only procecuting people who deliberately take it for financial reasons. If you own a large piece of property and find something on it six months from now what are you supposed to do? Also, I think some of the stuff is so small and widely scattered that the people picking it up will be largely undiscovered.
  6. by   emily_mom
    What's that quote about being to stupid to live?

    Kristy
  7. by   NurseShell
    I especially like the comment in another thread about "have to share oxygen" with these people! SHEESH
  8. by   deespoohbear
    Originally posted by deespoohbear

    "I think in one case it was very brazen and in the other it was what they stole," said Cossich. He declined to elaborate.

    Investigators said Hipp took a circuit board from a Nacogdoches street in front of a group of on-lookers who implored her not to remove the debris. In response, as Hipp drove off, she told the crowd she worked for NASA, police said.

    One of the onlookers photographed Hipp's license plate and used a cell phone to call police.
    I would say that was pretty deliberate.....
  9. by   Mkue
    SHEESH !!

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