In 2017, Delaware resident Michael Rohana drove to Philadelphia’s Franklin Institute, where he and his friends, drunkenly browsed through the institution’s collection illegally after hours. The group had just come from a Christmas party in which they were clad in ugly sweaters with a general carefree attitude, where Rohana took selfies with ancient statues, such as a 2,000-year-old Chinese Cavalryman sculpture as part of the “Terracotta Warriors of the First Emperor” exhibition. Upon leaving, Rohana snapped off a finger of the statue and left the museum with the artifact in his pocket. The FBI was able to track the vandal’s whereabouts through a combination of surveillance footage and credit card statements.
After a series of mistrials due to COVID, a judge has ruled that Rohana must pay a $5,000 USD fine, complete 100 hours of community service, and will have a five-year probation period to follow. There is also another hearing next month to determine how much restitution is needed to repair the sculpture, with the Franklin Institute estimating that it cost $50,000 USD for Chinese officials to asses the damages, and $25,000 USD to repair the actual work. Whatever the cost, “It’s going to hurt,” affirmed U.S. District Judge Chad F. Kenney, adding that Rohana’s “conduct in this case was absolutely outrageous—quite frankly, sickening. Everybody around the world looks at this and says, ‘Yep, that’s those Americans. No respect for nothing.’”
Initially, the judge in his first trial was unable to determine the intent behind Rohana’s actions — was this merely an act of debauchery or was their real intent to steal the artifact, like an art heist for financial gain? Rohana’s lawyer, Catherine C. Henry, has argued against the latter, stating: “These charges were made for art thieves—think like Ocean’s Eleven or Mission: Impossible.”
A report by Artnet estimates that The Cavalryman sculpture is insured for $4.5m USD, but it’s unclear as to what the piece broken off would amount to and how much restitution is expected in return. Rohana has assured judges that he has turned the corner. “I was wasting my time with no goals and no vision of where I wanted my life to go,” he said. “This has been a huge wake-up call for me.” Whatever the sum, Rohana is willing to sell his prized sneaker collection that is said to be worth up to $32,000 USD, to cover the costs.