Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Historian Pleads Guilty to Thefts from TRA

Wow, sometimes these things just seem to come out of nowhere. Travis comments on a Newsday AP story regarding historian Edward Renehan, Jr., 51, who pleaded guilty last Tuesday to interstate transportation of stolen property. Renehan admitted to stealing letters by George Washington and Abraham Lincoln from the Theodore Roosevelt Association (Oyster Bay, Long Island) while serving as acting director of the association between January 2006 and October 2007.

Renehan tried to sell the letters to a Manhattan gallery (Swann) for $97,000. His lawyer blames the thefts on a Renehan's recently-diagnosed bipolar disorder: "It's similar to getting drunk and doing something you wouldn't do if you were thinking straight," Peter Brill told the press. Brill says Renehan will ask to be spared jail time; he faces up to 30 months in prison plus a $250,000 fine and restitution. Sentencing is set for 21 August.

The author of six books, including The Lion's Pride: Theodore Roosevelt and his Family in Peace and War and the recent Commodore: The Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt, Renehan reportedly apologized during the plea hearing.

But that's not the end of the story. Writing for Newsday yesterday, Bill Bleyer adds "Besides four letters previously publicized, the National Park Service Investigative Services Branch recovered two books and a letter by Roosevelt that had been consigned to auction houses by Renehan and sold." Renehan's attorney admits the letter was stolen, but claims the books were Renehan's. AND "In a separate case in Nassau County, Renehan has been charged with stealing from the association's Muttontown office a letter by Roosevelt about the death of his son Quentin in World War I. He was also charged with possessing a forged document designed to cover up the theft. When Renehan consigned it to Swann, the auction house raised questions that led to the investigations." He's due back in Nassau County court on 13 July, and Brill told Bleyer he expects that a plea will be agreed upon in the state case as well.

Nassau County DA's spokesman Eric Phillips told the paper 'We are requiring him to plead guilty to the top charge,' grand larceny in the third degree, which is punishable by up to 7 years. 'He would be sentenced federally before he receives his state sentence.'"

Travis writes of the bipolar defense: "As a justification for a single theft, that seems to me only moderately believable. As a justification for multiple thefts and the subsequent attempts to sell the stolen items at a gallery, it seems particularly flimsy. We’ll see how far the defense takes this line."

I agree, especially if the pattern seems to be as long as it is starting to appear. Bizarre, and disturbing.