Suspect to plead guilty in damage at USS Cairo

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 8, 2001

[02/08/01] A California man is scheduled to plead guilty to attempting to take a piece of wood from the USS Cairo while on a visit to the Vicksburg National Military Park.

Vicksburg attorney Richard Smith said Wednesday that his client, Charles W. Morfin, 26, of Los Angeles, has agreed to a plea in federal court on March 7 to a misdemeanor charge of damaging, altering or defacing an archaeological resource located on public lands with a cost of $500 or more to restore or repair.

Smith said he could not discuss his client’s sentence.

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Morfin, who pleaded innocent in August, was facing up to two years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted on a felony charge.

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

Morfin admitted he took the chunk of wood, but told rangers after they arrested him that he had fallen while touring the ironclad and accidentally knocked the piece off. He was indicted Aug. 10 by a federal grand jury in Jackson.

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.

It was moved to Ingalls Shipyard in Pascagoula in 1965 for restoration and placed on display in the park near the Vicksburg National Cemetery in 1977.