By Katherine Lam
Published April 10, 2019
The case against a Delaware man who admitted to snapping the thumb off a $4.5 million terracotta warrior statue at a Philadelphia museum ended in a mistrial on Tuesday after jurors couldn’t reach a verdict.
The jury deliberated for 11 hours about whether Michael Rohana, 25, should be found guilty on counts including theft and concealment of an object of cultural heritage.
"These charges were made for art thieves — think like 'Ocean's Eleven' or 'Mission: Impossible,'" federal public defender Catherine C. Henry said in closing arguments. Rohana "wasn't in ninja clothing sneaking around the museum. He was a drunk kid in a bright green ugly Christmas sweater."
Rohana was attending an Ugly Sweater Party at the Franklin Institute on Dec. 21, 2017 when he entered the “Terra-cotta Warriors of the First Emperor” exhibit, according to an arrest affidavit. Rohana proceeded to take selfies with the 2,000-year-old statue, known as “The Cavalryman,” then snapped off the left thumb and walked away, authorities said.
The museum noticed the missing thumb on Jan. 8 — more than two weeks after the alleged incident — and reported it to police.
Rohana was also caught on surveillance video vandalizing the life-sized statue that’s considered one of China's most prized archaeological discoveries.
"I don't know why I broke it. It didn't just happen, but there was never a thought of, 'I should break this,'" Rohana testified in his case. "Every time I see this video now, I'm trying to figure out, 'What was going through your mind? What were you thinking?' I don't know how I could have been so stupid."
Although Rohana admitted to the crime, his lawyers argued he wasn't charged under the right law. Federal prosecutors said they'll decide by May whether to retry the case.
The incident angered Chinese officials, who demanded Rohana face “severe punishment” for snapping off the sacred statue’s thumb.
The thumb was eventually returned to China, but has not been reattached to the terracotta warrior, museum officials said.
The museum currently holds 10 of the statues that are part of a collection of 8,000, according to the BBC. The Terracotta Army, made of clay and built by Qin Shi Huang in the Qin Dynasty before he died in 210 B.C., were discovered in 1974.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.