This is an update of a "Street Sweeper" column that originally ran on June 20, 2012.
Lenny was a Tyrannosaurus dinosaur. About 70 million years ago, during the Cretaceous period, Lenny and a bunch of friends snuck out of the house to go tip over some Hadrosaurs that were grazing in a field in modern-day Mongolia. The Hadrosaurs weren't bothering nobody. Lenny and his pals were out on a prank.
Fast forward about 70 million years to 1946.
No more Cretaceous period. Just the onset of the Cold War. A Soviet-Mongolian expedition to the Gobi Desert in the Mongolian Ömnögovi Province unearths Lenny's fossil. For whatever reason, turns out that Lenny wasn't a popular Tyrannosaurus Rex. Nope, Lenny was the lesser Tyrannosaurus Bataar. For Seinfeld fans, think about the great chocolate babka versus the lesser cinnamon babka.
On March 27, 2010, the skeletal remains of our lesser Tyrannosaurus was imported into the United States from Great Britain.
How the hell did Lenny get from Mongolia to Great Britain? Fair question.
Customs documents (what - you thought you could export even a lesser Tyrannosaurus into the US without proper papers?) listed the country of origin as Great Britain. That set off a ton of alarms in paleontology departments all over the place because, after all, every paleontologist worth anything knows that Tyrannosaurus Bataars have only been found in Mongolia. I think that in the 1950s, Godzilla made it to London but I could be wrong about that and, anyway, he and Lenny probably never knew each other to begin with.
Also, instead of listing only Lenny's skeletal remains, the customs documents stated that what had been imported into the US was two large rough fossil reptile heads, six boxes of broken fossil bones, three rough fossil reptiles, one fossil lizard, three rough fossil reptiles, and one fossil reptile skull. Say what you want about Lenny but he only had one head.
Then there's the money issue. Even after tens of millions of years it still comes down to dollars. On the customs documents, Lenny was valued at only $15,000. That was odd because Texas-based Heritage Auctions, Inc., was offering Lenny for sale at a New York City auction, and the 2012 catalog listed the skeleton at $950,000 to $1,500,000 - and the winning bid was $1,052,000.
Prior to the auction sale, the Government of Mongolia sought, and was granted, by a Texas State Civil District Judge, a Temporary Restraining Order prohibiting the auctioning, sale, release or transfer of Lenny. Although the state order was in place, the auction proceeded contingent upon the outcome of court proceedings.
On June 5, 2012, at the request of the President of Mongolia, several paleontologists specializing in Tyrannosaurus Bataars examined Lenny and concluded that he was unearthed from the western Gobi Desert in Mongolia between 1995 and 2005. Geez, any idiot could have told you that. I wonder what it cost to get all those fossil guys to come and examine Lenny? If they had just asked me, I would have pointed out that Lenny was found wearing a Rolling Stones' "Bridges to Babylon" t-shirt and the tour began in 1997, so that sort of narrowed it down, right?
On June 18, 2012,, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, hot off his victory against Wall Street insider traders, filed a civil complaint seeking forfeiture of Lenny. Bharara stated:
The skeletal remains of this dinosaur are of tremendous cultural and historic significance to the people of Mongolia, and provide a connection to the country's prehistoric past. When the skeleton was allegedly looted, a piece of the country's natural history was stolen with it, and we look forward to returning it to its rightful place.
Mongolia's President, Tsakhia Elbegdorj, stated:
I thank and applaud the United States Attorney's Office in this action to recover the Tyrannosaurus bataar, an important piece of the cultural heritage of the Mongolian people. Cultural looting and profiteering cannot be tolerated anywhere and this cooperation between our governments is a large step forward to stopping it.
I will be closely following this case. I am particularly interested to see if any potential jurors are prejudiced against Tyrannosauruses. I understand that among the defenses is a claim of mistaken identity and that Lenny is actually Bernie, another Tyrannosaurus Bataar who was involved in a Ponzi scheme several million years ago. Folks say that the two look alike but if you really knew them, you'd see the obvious difference.
For the naysayers among you, be gone! Those who doubted the authenticity of this great dinosaur caper at the Southern District of New York will be shocked to learn that the full-text Complaint in this matter is now online: READ United States of America v. One Tyrannosaurus Bataar Skeleton, a/k/a Lot 49315 Listed on Page 92 of the Heritage Auctions May 20, 2012 Natural History Auction Catalog, Defendant-In-Rem (SDNY 12-CIV-4760 June 18, 2012).
According to the Complaint, Lenny was imported from Great Britain to Florida Fossils of Gainesville, FL, on March 27, 2010. From the Sunshine State, Lenny was purportedly transported to Texas and, thereafter, to New York City for auction. I cannot confirm rumors that Lenny was performing in T. Rextribute band at Austin, TX's SXSW but some have suggested that possibility. Sadly, we learn that Lenny is presently being held against his will at Cadogan Tate Fine in Sunnyside, NY.
According to the federal Complaint, the auction catalog described Lenny as follows:
SUPERB TYRANNOSAURUS SKELETON
T. bataar . . . ruled the food chain of the ancient floodplains that are today's Gobi Desert . . . This is an incredible, complete skeleton, painstakingly excavated and prepared . . . The body is 75% complete and the skull 80% . . .Measuring 24 feet in length and standing 8 feet high, it is a stupendous, museum-quality specimen of one of the most emblematic dinosaurs ever to have stalked this Earth.
Whoa! Lenny ruled the food chain and is an incredible, stupendous,museum-quality specimen of one of the most emblematic dinosaurs to have walked our planet. Rock on Lenny! Bang a gong. Get it on, man . . . um, sorry, reptile.
Also, I would like to lodge a complaint about the photograph of Lenny that is attached as Exhibit A to the Complaint. It is a terrible case of paparazzi ambush photojournalism that depicts this innocent Tyrannosuaurs Bataar in a very compromising pose during the totally unfair and prejudicial perp walk - bare-bone nude and apparently under the influence of some form of controlled substance. Lenny denies being under the influence of anything and says it was exhaustion from his recent travels.
Please stay tuned for updates about planned "Free Lenny" protests. We are hoping to soon launch LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter sites to Free Lenny. We are also hoping to fully merchandise this story via EBay and possibly sell international rights for an exclusive interview. We're in discussions about an iPad app. Also, our people are hoping to meet with Diane Sawyer‘s or Barbara Walter's people soon - and, if not, we're open for something with Geraldo Rivera. Lenny is also a fan of the Simpson's and is willing to make a guest appearance provided there's monetary compensation involved. We are absolutely closed to any cross-promotion with Barney as a result of ongoing litigation between the two dinosaur enterprises.