PDT and AP Staff Reports
Steve Shaffer of Ironton was caught by surprise Thursday, when he got word he had been indicted by a Kentucky grand jury.
In the indictment, Shaffer, who led efforts to pull an 8-ton boulder known as Indian Head Rock from the Ohio River, was accused of breaking Kentucky law by removing a protected archaeological object - a felony. He could face one to five years in prison if convicted.
"I'm really surprised," Shaffer said. "It's not about historic preservation, we all know that. It's about revenge."
The rock's removal triggered a dispute between Shaffer and elected officials in Kentucky, who insist it belongs in their state. Shaffer says he saved it from being damaged or lost forever. It now sits in a city service garage in Portsmouth.
The rock reportedly once was a navigation marker and an attraction for locals who ventured out to carve their names into it, but it hadn't been seen since the 1920s.
It remained mostly submerged until September, 2007, when Shaffer led the crew that pulled it from the river.
The rock has carvings of initials, names and a crude face some claim is a petroglyph carved by an unknown American Indian.
It was registered as a protected archaeological object with Kentucky state government in 1986. Greenup County (Ky.) Commonwealth Attorney Cliff Duvall said the case is not about the fate of the rock, but whether it was removed without a proper permit.
"What's important is that all of these things be protected and that the law of Kentucky be observed," he said.
Shaffer, accusing Duvall of "having an ax to grind," said he plans to fight the charge.
"It just amazes me that it just couldn't have been resolved any other way," he said.
Duvall said earlier this week he was interested only in having people do whatever the law states, and whether the team - led by Shaffer, a historian - broke a law.
Kentucky owns the Ohio River between the two states to the low-water mark on the Ohio bank. In the mid-1980s, Duvall said, that boundary - at Ohio's insistence - was defined by the courts as the line where the low-water mark existed in 1792, when Kentucky became the 15th state (with its northern boundary formed by the erratic course of the Ohio River). That ruling gave Ohio ownership of 100 yards or so of the river out from its banks.
Shaffer would not say whether or not he knew the rock was in Kentucky.
"I don't know where the Ohio River starts or stops, and I did not know there was any law protecting this rock," he said.
As for the law, he said, "Can anyone tell me all the laws from the different states?"
He said he does not believe Kentuckians knew about the rock, whether it existed or not.
"It's a rock with the graffiti of the people of Portsmouth, Ohio, on it," Shaffer said. "This was graffiti from the 1800s. This is what we took out of the Ohio River - a rock with graffiti on it.
"I did not know there was any law protecting that rock, and I still don't know what law protects a rock with graffiti on it."