Monday, March 19, 2007

More on McTague

Several new tidbits of information today on the Denning McTague case:

- The "criminal information" (apparently something like an indictment, but it seems to be less serious, which probably has something to do with McTague's Smiley-like "cooperation") filed against McTague charges him with the theft of 165 archival documents from the National Archives. A press release notes that 161 of the items have been recovered.

- Over at Upward Departure Travis McDade has some more information on the charges, and notes that McTague's guilty plea is scheduled for 4 April. He writes that the charges filed fall under 18 USC 641 (theft of government property) rather than 18 USC 668 (theft of major artwork). This means that if the combined value of McTague's thefts is less than $1000, the only punishment is that the offender "shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both."

Travis: "Another troubling aspect of the statute is this: 'The word ‘value’ means face, par or market value or cost price, either wholesale or retail, whichever is greater.' This valuation scheme stands in direct opposition to the idea that the value of unique national documents of the sort that McTague stole are worth far more to the culture than just their price on the open market. I simply can’t believe that a statute that’s used to prosecute someone who steals a box of government staplers is also being employed to prosecute a man who stole a Jeb Stuart letter."

Agreed. Why on earth wouldn't the prosecutors file under the major artwork section (particularly given that a previous Archives thief was charged that way)?

- Also, some more background on McTague (whose website, by the way, has been removed, but is still available in cache form). It pains me to have to write this, but he attended my alma mater, Union College, graduating in 1989. All the more reason for him to have known better, in my view. Additionally, I have learned that his eBay username was 'hchapel', and he was previously employed as a 'local history librarian' in Nyack, NY (which begs the question of what he swiped from there). His "rare book business" was apparently originally started by his mother before he took it over.

More as it comes ...

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