JUNEAU, Alaska — A Skagway shopkeeper has been found not guilty of fraudulently presenting art as Alaska Native-made.
Rosemary V. Libert, 56, and a seasonal employee were among five charged after a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service investigation into possible violations of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act, the Juneau Empire reported .
Jurors unanimously found Libert not guilty Friday. Prosecutors had dismissed charges against the employee.
An undercover agent recorded the audio of an interaction with Libert on June 30, 2015.
Defense attorney Michael Satin argued that audio recorded inside the Lynch & Kennedy Dry Goods store did not prove Libert falsely represented art as Alaska Native-made.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jack Schmidt said Libert never considered clearly stating the origin of the work. The agent asked if Libert knew the artist, saying, “So he would be like, ah, like an Alaska native?”
To which Libert said, “Mhmm.”
“This law is a truth and advertising law to protect customers,” Schmidt said. “She let the assumption continue.”
Satin said an email exchange between his client and the undercover official shows Libert did not hide the artist’s identity.
“Chupak is NOT native indian or eskimo (Alaskan native),” according to Libert’s email.
“You asked a direct question and a direct answer followed,” Satin said when questioning the agent in court.
The official responded “mhmm” before expanding his answer to “yes.”
Two others who were charged took plea deals.
Online court records show a case against a Ketchikan business owner heading for a possible plea deal as well.
Only Libert’s case went to trial.
Information from: Juneau (Alaska) Empire, http://www.juneauempire.com