Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Knucklehead Of The Day: Edward Forbes Smiley III

Edward Forbes Smiley III, a rare-map dealer with a patrician-sounding name, has earned our Knucklehead Of The Day Award for the plebeian crime of taking things that don't belong to him:
A map dealer who stole nearly 100 rare maps valued at $3 million from Yale and other institutions was sentenced to three and a half years in prison on Wednesday after a federal judge credited him for helping the authorities retrieve most of the items taken.

Representatives of the institutions that were looted, who had traveled long distances to lobby for a stiff sentence, left the court saying they were deeply disappointed with the punishment given the map dealer, Edward Forbes Smiley III. Federal sentencing guidelines suggested that Mr. Smiley was looking at a term of 57 to 71 months, although the maximum penalty was 10 years.

Mr. Smiley, 50, told the court he was “deeply ashamed” and was eager to make restitution to the institutions and dealers who lost money. Some of the stolen maps have not been retrieved, and dealers who bought maps from Mr. Smiley and then resold them often had to reimburse their clients so that the maps could be returned.

He stood within 20 feet of three cartons containing dozens of the stolen maps that had been retrieved, which had been brought into court to allow the judge to inspect them.

“I have hurt many people,” he said, his hands clasped behind him. He said he had read the many victim-impact letters sent to the court and said, “I find them very powerful. I believe they were written by a group of people who have love for these materials and who have devoted their lives to making them public.”

Mr. Smiley said he understood the sense of betrayal felt by the curators and library staff members who had helped him when he came to examine their collections.

Mr. Smiley, 50, was arrested by the Yale police in June 2005, shortly after leaving Yale’s rare-book library with seven maps stashed in his briefcase and tweed jacket.

After a year of cooperating with the authorities, he pleaded guilty in federal court in June this year to the theft of a major artwork. As part of the plea agreement, he admitted to removing maps from collections at Harvard, Yale, the New York Public Library, Boston Public Library, the Newberry Library in Chicago and the British Library in London.

All of those institutions sent representatives to Wednesday’s hearing to press for a stiff sentence. Robert Karrow, the map curator at the Newberry, said he wanted a sentence that would tell “Smiley’s successors that the stakes in this game of cultural hijacking have been raised.”

Several also expressed outrage that Mr. Smiley’s lawyer, Richard A. Reeve, wanted his client to be rewarded for helping retrieve what he had stolen.

“That cooperation, of course, occurred only after he was caught in the very act of mutilating books and stealing maps” at Yale, said Professor Frank M. Turner on behalf of the university’s libraries.

The judge, Janet Bond Arterton of the United States District Court, said “this is anything but an easy sentence to impose” given Mr. Smiley’s many contradictions.

She said she was awed earlier that day when she inspected the maps that Mr. Smiley had taken.

But she said Mr. Smiley’s decision to cooperate when he could have told federal agents to “have a nice investigation,” as Mr. Reeve had put it earlier, made her feel Mr. Smiley deserved to get less than the sentence suggested by federal guidelines.
Our guess is that this Knucklehead will be doing his time at some variant of the Federal government's notoriously-easy "prison," Club Fed.
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