AP NEWS
Related topics

Library Urges Punishment for Map Stealer

September 14, 2006

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) _ A prominent dealer in antique maps who admitted stealing nearly 100 maps from libraries in the United States and Britain should be severely punished because he looted treasures that told the story of the new world and had survived catastrophic events over the centuries, the British Library said in court papers.

The library filed a sentencing memorandum Wednesday in the case of E. Forbes Smiley III, who pleaded guilty in June to one count of theft of major artwork in connection with the theft of a map from Yale University.

Smiley, 50, of Chilmark, Mass., faces up to six years in prison under federal guidelines when he is sentenced on Sept. 27. The British Library is urging the court to impose a higher sentence.

``The maps stolen by Smiley created the dreams of the explorer, merchant and powerful,″ the library wrote. ``They charted the paths of national expansion and empire building. They marked the rise of British dominance, the origins of a new nation and the demise of a native population. The maps drew the lines between where knowledge ended and imagination began.″

One of the stolen maps had survived civil war, royal intrigue, economic depression and the Nazi bombing of London. ``They had been cared for and preserved for centuries until Smiley ripped them from their volumes and slid them into his coat,″ the library wrote.

Smiley admitted in June that he stole 97 maps over eight years from the New York and Boston public libraries, the Newberry Library in Chicago, the Harvard University library and the British Library in London. The oldest maps dated back to the 1500s and some are the first records of settlements, territories and discoveries in America, experts say.

With Smiley’s help, prosecutors said most of the maps have been recovered from dealers and galleries. Prosecutors said four maps have not been returned by those who have them and five others are lost.

Smiley’s attorney, Richard Reeve, called the British Library’s arguments ``factually and legally flawed.″ He said authorities could only prove Smiley stole 18 maps, but his client cooperated with the additional thefts.

``In effect, the libraries are getting back 80 maps that they never would have been able to prove Smiley had taken,″ Reeve said. ``He could have sat back and said, ’Prove it.‴

But that tactic would have exposed Smiley to more prosecutions in other jurisdictions, said Robert Goldman, attorney for the British Library.

Smiley was arrested after a Yale librarian found a razor blade on the floor. Yale and other top map libraries reviewed their security procedures after Smiley’s arrest.

AP RADIO
Update hourly