Charges may be amended in rock case

Published 11:00 am Friday, October 24, 2008

GREENUP, Ky. — Hours after a trial date was set in the Portsmouth Indian Head Rock trial, the defense team learned the prosecution wants to change the original charge.

In June, Ironton historian Steve Shaffer, 51, was indicted for his role in the removal of what has been colloquially termed the Portsmouth Indian Head Rock, an 8-ton sandstone that has rested in the Ohio River for more than 100 years. The rock was a longtime tourist attraction for residents on this side of the river until it was permanently submerged in 1920 with the building of a lock and dam system up and down the Ohio.

Thursday in the courtroom of Greenup Circuit Court Judge Robert Conley, an Aug. 3 date was set for the trial of the Commonwealth of Kentucky against Shaffer. Shaffer and a team of divers were involved in pulling the rock from the river — the river is under the jurisdiction of Kentucky.

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Kentucky claims Shaffer committed a Class D felony for allegedly removing what they say is a protected archaeological object from the river. A Class D felony is punishable by one to five years in prison. A specially called Greenup grand jury indicted Shaffer along with David Vetter, a Portsmouth-based diver.

However, lead defense attorney Mike Curtis said this morning that late Thursday afternoon, he received a motion made by Commonwealth’s Attorney Clifford Duvall that he wants to amend the original indictment. The change would be to add that there was a disturbance of an archaeological site.

Curtis said this morning that he had no immediate comment since he had yet to review the motion.

A call was made to Duvall’s office but he was said to be in a hearing.