Lawman Accused of Stealing Shuttle Parts

He was there to lend a hand, but now he's accused of helping himself to pieces of the crashed Shuttle Columbia. A Harrison County Constable, Robert Hagan II, was part of a team searching for debris from the Columbia shuttle tragedy. Now Hagan could face up to ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine for looting pieces of the shuttle.

U.S. Magistrate Harry McKee read Hagan the charges against him, Monday afternoon. The Hallsville man faces one charge of possession of stolen government property.

Hagan gave himself up when federal investigators determined debris found in his car was indeed from Columbia.

A federal arrest affidavit says, employees of the Harrison County Sheriff's office found a piece of debris in Hagan's car ashtray -- along with five additional pieces in his truck.

The Harrison County Sheriff photographed the items and sent the pictures to NASA for confirmation. One item has been identified as a shuttle tile. "Its a particularly troubling day, when an individual who is sworn to uphold the law, is charged with stealing evidence and hindering this historic investigation," said Matthew Orwig, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas.

The federal court released Hagan on $5,000 bond. He's scheduled to appear in court February 27th.

Kerri Panchuk, reporting.