Getty museum’s ex-curator appears at antiquities trafficking trial |

Getty museum’s ex-curator appears at antiquities trafficking trial

Associated Press

ROME – The former antiquities curator of the J. Paul Getty Museum was dealt a series of setbacks as her trial on illegal trafficking charges resumed Wednesday in a court case widely seen as a warning to the art world.The case, which stemmed from a 10-year smuggling investigation, has cast doubt over the provenance of artifacts in several museums other than the Getty, including Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.Marion True, 57, who is accused of receiving and conspiring to deal in stolen antiquities from Italy, sat stony-faced through the four-hour hearing as the judge rejected a string of defense requests, including one that the indictments be overturned.Judge Gustavo Barbarinaldo did, however, agree to a request by True’s lawyers to bar TV cameras from the courtroom.Co-defendant and fellow American Robert Hecht, an 86-year-old art dealer who allegedly acted as an intermediary between art thieves and museums, was not present at Wednesday’s hearing.The Getty has defended True’s work, and she and Hecht have denied any wrongdoing.The trial, which resumed after a four-month recess, grew out of the probe into the activities of Italian antiquities dealer Giacomo Medici. He was convicted in Rome last year of conspiring to traffic in looted antiquities and sentenced to 10 years in prison. He remains free during his appeal.Italy – rich in ancient history – has strict laws stipulating that antiquities belong to the state and cannot leave its territory, except on loan for exhibition, and it is hoping the trial will help it recover many artifacts that it contends were illegally excavated or exported. The Getty recently returned three ancient pieces.Prosecutor Paolo Ferri said he hoped that with the trial, “carelessness or criminal deeds that have been committed in the past will not be repeated in the future.”The Italian state and the region of Sicily, from where prosecutors allege some of the artifacts were stolen, have filed as civil plaintiffs in the trial.The defense argued that the indictments should be overturned because the judge in Medici’s case, Guglielmo Muntoni, may have been prejudiced in ordering True and Hecht to stand trial after sentencing the Italian arts dealer.Barbarinaldo also rejected defense motions to exclude evidence gathered in fact-finding missions in Switzerland and to delay the trial in order to incorporate other suspects still under investigation by Ferri.The next trial session was set for Dec. 5. True and Hecht could face prison sentences of up to five years if convicted of the conspiracy charge and up to eight years if found guilty of the stolen property charge.The investigation leading to the trial began when police raided Medici’s offices in Geneva in 1995 and found some 1,000 photographs of artifacts they deemed of “uncertain origin.”Treasures allegedly were sold by art dealers, including Medici and Hecht, to prestigious museums in the United States and in Europe.The case against True involves about 35 artifacts acquired by the Getty museum between 1986 and the late 1990s – including bronze Etruscan pieces, frescoes and painted Greek vessels.Defendants in Italy are not required to attend their trials, and True’s appearance took the court by surprise.Judicial officials scrambled to find an interpreter to translate the proceedings into English. When they were unsuccessful, a defense lawyer, sometimes consulting an English-Italian dictionary, did the interpreting.True’s lawyer Francesco Isolabella said her client wanted to attend “because it’s a question of seriousness and duty.”True ignored reporters’ questions as she left the courtroom and was escorted by lawyers and police to a taxi.True resigned from her post at the Getty last month after museum officials determined she had violated policy by failing to report details of her purchase of a vacation home on a Greek island.Vail, Colorado

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