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“It took us a couple years for us to clear the site of all the aircraft and other artifacts that were on it,” he said. “The building was not totally destroyed. They continued to use it for storage and they, frankly, did not have any other place to take a lot of those things.”

Slotnick was more blunt in writing the state’s response. He accused Anderson of “unlawful conduct” that “has caused the state harm, forcing the state to expend time and money in conducting its investigation and search for the missing moon rocks and plaque, and depriving the state of the use of the moon rocks and plaque for over 37 years.”

Harris contends no one in 1973 thought the moon rocks were worth anything.

“The state never filed a police report, never filed an insurance claim,” he said. “They thought that they had no value, which everyone else thought back then, and that they were thrown out, that they knew they had thrown them out in the trash, but they thought they had been taken away to the dump.”

Anderson, a vessel captain who appeared in early episodes of the Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch,” has the moon rocks outside the country, Harris said. In the last couple of years Anderson learned from news accounts that the rocks were valuable and decided he eventually would like to sell them. He didn’t want a dispute over ownership, Harris said, so he went to court. Ideally, Alaska would buy them back, Harris said. Anderson would even offer Alaska a discount.

One way to establish their value, Harris said, and to give the state a discount would be to conduct an auction and let Alaska pay 80 cents on the dollar versus other bidders.

Harris likes Anderson’s chances, in court, given that his client appears to be the only witness to how the moon rocks departed state custody.

“I would argue the state of Alaska is prohibiting themselves from getting the moon rocks back, because all they have to do is pay far less than they’re worth, and they would get them back.” Harris said.