What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. The same cannot be said for the Philadelphia Museum. A seemingly harmless drunken night at Philadelphia’s Franklin Institute and a stolen finger of one of China’s famed Terracotta Warrior sculptures during a party turned into an ordeal for Michael Rohana. Art and culture are serious business, and Rohana learned it the hard way. In 2017, 24-year-old Rohana attended a Ugly Sweater Party at the Franklin Institute on December 21. He entered the Terracotta Warriors exhibit with only his mobile phone, took a selfie with one of the warriors, and left with an extra object- the missing thumb of the 2,000-year-old statue worth $4.5 million.
The Terracotta Army was one of China’s most important archaeological finds-
Previously, Rohana faced a 30-year prison sentence on charges of theft and concealment of an object of cultural heritage from a museum. Thankfully for him, and to the ire of China, the maximum sentence will now be two years in jail and a fine of $20,000.
The Franklin Institute noticed that the statue’s thumb was missing around January 8, 2018, and an investigation followed that led FBI special agent Jacob B. Archer to Rohana’s Delaware residence in February 2018. Rohana confessed to his crime, immediately returning the stolen digit.
China was furious over this carelessness exhibited by the US museum.
The Terracotta Army was discovered in the 1970s by a group of Chinese farmers. Shaanxi Cultural Heritage Promotion Centre that loaned the statues strongly condemned the Franklin Institute, “We ask that the US severely punish the perpetrator. We have lodged a serious protest with them,” said Wu Haiyun. However, the lack of motive made this art theft unique and lowered Rohana’s sentence to two years in prison.
When the offender took the stand, he admitted he didn’t know why he had stolen the thumb, per Artnet, “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,” he said. He clearly was simply a drunk kid in a bright green ugly Christmas sweater at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Philadelphia had to issue an apology-
There is only one way to get out of a foot-in-mouth situation- apologize! The City of Philadelphia passed a resolution to apologize to China officially. It was submitted to the Chinese Consul-General in New York and was forwarded to the Shaanxi Cultural Heritage Promotion Center in April 2018.