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April 11, 2019

Judge declares mistrial in case of man charged with breaking off thumb from $4.5M terra cotta warrior statue

Michael Rohana admitted to damaging the relic at trial, describing that it occurred one drunk night at the Franklin Institute in 2017

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Carroll - Franklin Institute Terracotta Warriors Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

The exhibit, "Terracotta Warriors of the First Emperor," is on display at the Franklin Institute from Sept. 30, 2017 until March 4, 2018. This display features a replica of the bronze "Chariot No. 1."

A judge declared a mistrial on Wednesday in the 2017 case of an intoxicated man who broke off a thumb on a historically-significant statue, thousands of years old, on display at the Franklin Institute.

The man, Michael Rohana, of Bear, Delaware, was at an ugly Christmas sweater party in the museum two years ago when he wandered off and entered a closed exhibit containing 10 ancient, terra cotta warrior statues on loan from the Chinese government.

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Surveillance video caught Rohana taking selfies with his arm around the statue known as "The Cavalryman." Then, he broke off its left thumb and pocketed the digit — which, alone, is worth more than $5,000. Museum staff noticed the thumb was missing in January 2018, which then sparked an FBI investigation.

The thumb was recovered last year when the FBI visited Rohana at his home in Delaware. It has been returned to China, however officials at the Franklin Institute told the jury it has not been reattached, the AP reported.

On Tuesday, a jury deadlocked on charges of theft and concealment of an object of cultural heritage. Federal prosecutors will decide by May whether to retry the case.

The Chinese government is not happy with the result of the trial, and the BBC reports it is investigating the culpability of the Franklin Institute in the incident. 

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