Cairo suspect pleads not guilty

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 24, 2000

A Los Angeles man pleaded innocent Wednesday in federal court in Jackson to charges of attempting to take a sliver of wood from the USS Cairo in the Vicksburg National Military Park.

Charles W. Morfin, 26, was ordered to stand trial Oct. 10 in Vicksburg and will face up to two years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted.

Morfin was arrested July 25 by park rangers who said he took an 8-inch-by-3-inch piece of wood from the the Civil War ironclad. He was later released on a $2,000 bond.

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Morfin admitted taking the chunk of wood, but told rangers after they arrested him that he had fallen while touring the ironclad and accidentally knocked off the piece.

He was indicted Aug. 10 by the federal grand jury in Jackson on charges of damaging, altering or defacing an archaeological resource located on public lands with a cost of $500 or more to restore or repair.

Morfin is represented by Vicksburg attorney Richard Smith Jr.

The Cairo sank in the Yazoo River about seven miles north of Vicksburg after a blast from a Confederate underwater mine on Dec. 12, 1862. It rested on the muddy bottom of the river for 102 years before it was raised and restored.