Map thief sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison

Map thief sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison

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USA, 27 September 2006 – E. Forbes Smiley III, who admitted stealing nearly 100 rare antique maps, was sentenced Wednesday to 3 1/2 years in prison after one librarian described him as a “thief who assaulted history.”

Smiley, a 50-year-old resident of Martha’s Vineyard, also was tentatively ordered to pay restitution of $1.9 million, though that figure may change. He is scheduled to report to prison January 4.

Smiley, who faced up to six years in prison under federal sentencing guidelines, stole 98 maps over eight years from the New York and Boston public libraries, the Newberry Library in Chicago, the Harvard and Yale university libraries and the British Library in London. Leaders of the prestigious libraries urged a stiff sentence for Smiley, saying he took world treasures and left a trail of victims.

Smiley, who pleaded guilty in June, was arrested last year after a Yale librarian found a razor blade on the floor. The arrest prompted Yale and other top map libraries to review their security procedures.

Federal prosecutors urged a reduced sentence, saying that while Smiley’s thefts were “reprehensible,” his extensive cooperation led to the recovery of all but six of the maps.

“We believe that the court balanced the severity of this crime with this defendants significant cooperation in recovering most of the maps that he stole and imposed a fair sentence,” U.S. Attorney Kevin O’Connor said.

“Your honor, I have hurt many people,” he said in court Wednesday. “I stole very valuable research materials from institutions that made it their business to provide those materials to the public for valuable research. I am deeply ashamed of having done that.”

Smiley also said he wants to pay the restitution as quickly as possible. “I cannot imagine the pain and the anger that I made them suffer,” he said. U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton said she wanted to send a dual message with the sentence.

Smiley offered little explanation for his motives, aside from selfishness. Prosecutors have said he acted out of resentment toward the prestigious libraries and to pay for his expensive tastes and mounting debts.

“Mr. Smiley’s crime is extremely serious,” British Library Director Clive Field said during the sentencing hearing. “It will go down in criminal and library history as one of the largest, most prolonged, premeditated and systematic of all thefts from libraries, and with no mitigating circumstances.”

Field said he was disappointed by the sentence, saying it amounted to 12 days in prison for every map he stole. Field and other librarians said Smiley stole world treasures, hurt staff morale, mutilated the maps, harmed scholars who count on the documents, and shattered the trust that is essential between libraries and their patrons.

The maps marked the discovery of new lands, traced wars and peace treaties, new settlements and disappearances of people, said David Ferriero of the New York Public Library.

“I am here today to talk about the actions of a thief – a thief who assaulted history, betrayed personal trust and caused irreparable loss of treasures whose value to future scholarship will now never be known,” Ferriero said. “The stolen maps are ones that illustrate humankind’s most fanciful conceptions of what our world could be during a time before satellite imagery, global positioning technology, airplanes, submarines and icebreakers, computers, cameras and modern surveying tools.”