Crazy Times the American Government Took Inanimate Objects to Court

Governments have long been taking anyone and everyone to court. Nothing unusual here. But inanimate objects? That’s certainly a reason to raise an eyebrow or two. In the United States, this is not a rare occurrence. Moon rocks, golden roosters and even shark fins are some of the animate objects who were put on trial. It sounds hilarious because it is. Here are five inanimate objects that were taken to court by the US government.

1. One Tyrannosaurus Bataar Skeleton

Under suspicion that a 70-million-year-old dinosaur fossil had been illegally extracted from their country, the Mongolian government filed a court order, stating that they owned all fossils dug from their country. So the dinosaur was arrested and after some digging, it was discovered that the owner of the bones, Eric Prokopi, did in fact steal the fossil from Mongolia. Prokopi was found guilty of not only illegally excavating the fossils, but customs fraud as well, since he lied to US Customs about what he was transporting.

2. Moon Rock Wooden Plaque

When NASA heard of a plaque containing 1.1 grams of Moon rock, they set up a sting to retrieve it. An agent placed a false ad in the newspaper, requesting for someone who wanted to sell Moon rocks. A man named Alan Rosen responded, wanting to sell it for $5 to 10 million. Rosen was arrested and it turned out that the rock was a gift from President Nixon to Honduras which went missing between 1990 and 1994. In the end, the US government sued, won the case and kept the rock for themselves.

3. A Solid Gold Rooster Statue

Is it art or a tool of commerce? This was the basis of a July 1962 trial between the Treasury Department and Richard L. Graves, a casino owner. Graves’ golden rooster was arrested in July 1960 by the US government as part of the Gold Reserve Act of 1934, which required Americans to surrender their gold. At court, the Treasury Department argued that the rooster was a tool of commerce since it was sculpted to advertise a fried chicken restaurant at the casino. But Graves’ attorney Paul Laxalt insisted that it was indeed art. The jury sided Graves and he got his rooster back

4. Forty Barrels and Twenty Kegs of Coca-Cola

The US government, in an effort to enforce the Pure Food and Drug Act, seized 40 barrels and 20 kegs of Coca-Cola on October 20, 1909. At the time, the beverages were being transported from Atlanta Georgia all the way to Chattanooga, Tennessee. The government’s concern was the caffeine in the drink which they deemed to be poisonous. So after a lengthy investigation, it was revealed that the effects of caffeine were pretty mild. Though, in seven years later, Coca-Cola was forced to reduce the caffeine levels in its drinks.

5. Approximately 64,695 Pounds of Shark Fins

In 2002, the King Diamond II was placed on trial after they were busted by the United States Coast Guard (USCG) transporting shark fins to Guatemala for the Hong Kong company Tai Loong Hong Marine Products, Ltd (TLH). The USCG took them to court, first naming the ship as the defendant, then the shark fins. However, TLH countered by claiming that the ship was not a fishing vessel since they only purchased shark fins. The courts eventually sided with TLH since the Shark Finning Prohibition Act never forbade the buying of shark fins, nor did it clearly explain what qualified as a fishing vessel.

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