The Yukon Appeals court has found no merit to allegations that the Geological Survey of Canada conspired to steal a rock containing extraterrestrial life from a Yukon placer miner.
Daniel Sabo found a strange rock while prospecting near Mayo in 1986. An assayer he hired reported that the rock was probably a meteorite.
Sabo kept the space rock for more than a decade but took no special measures to protect it.
Eventually it started to develop a green colouration along one of the seams. Sabo claimed this was of extraterrestrial origin.
In May of 1999, Sabo had a friend deliver the rock to the Geological Survey of Canada in the Yukon.
From there it made its way to Ottawa where tests on the rock were carried out and a cutting was made.
When Sabo asked for his rock back the next year, it was returned along with a comprehensive report, which concluded that more sophisticated testing needed to be done to determine if it was actually a meteorite.
But Sabo claimed that what he got back was an elaborate reproduction.
Gone were the green structures that Sabo thought was extraterrestrial life, and he said it weighed significantly less than the original – even with the missing cutting that the geological survey had kept.
He took his complaint to the RCMP.
Cpl. Dan Parlee’s investigation concluded that the “chain of continuity to the ‘meteorite’ had been disrupted to the point that it would be impossible to prove a reliable starting weight.”
Undeterred, Sabo took things into his own hands.
In February 2000, he travelled to Ottawa and showed up unannounced at the office of the Geological Survey of Canada, where he confronted Richard Herd and demanded that the cutting be returned along with any photographs they had taken of it.
They agreed to give him the photographs but refused to give him the cutting, believing – it turns out correctly – that a civil lawsuit was brewing and the that the cutting was proof that they had already returned the original.
Sabo took them to court and, with no legal basis to keep the piece of rock, a judge ordered them to turn it over to a lab of Sabo’s choice for analysis in 2008.
A scientist at the lab, Bill Schneck, concluded that the cutting was from taken from the original rock.
Sabo responded that Schneck was in on the conspiracy and included him and the original investigating RCMP officer in the lawsuit.
All told, Sabo named eight plaintiffs in his suit in which he claimed
$12 million in damages – the sum of the weight of the original rock, multiplied by $50,000 per gram he claimed the “meteorite” was worth.
After a trial in 2009, a judge concluded that the rock that the geological survey returned to Sabo was the original, that the “extraterrestrial life form” was most likely lichen or some kind of mundane chemical reaction and that the rock, even if certified as a meteorite, was only worth about $2,500.
All of Sabo’s claims were dismissed and the defendants were awarded costs.
Sabo appealed the decision, but the appeals court’s three judges upheld most of the original ruling.
The appeals court did leave the door open for Sabo to sue for $1,000 in damages against the geological survey for wrongfully maintaining possession of the cutting for several years.
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