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2 Arrested in Napoleon Conspiracy

March 29, 2001

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ Two men have been charged in a conspiracy to sell the 1814 Treaty of Fontainebleau, signed by Napoleon and stolen in 1988 from the French National Archives in Paris.

The document had forced Napoleon to renounce his claim to the French Empire and consigned him to exile on the island of Elba.

An indictment filed in U.S. District Court in New York says John William Rooney, 69, allegedly stole the historic document, and Marshall Lawrence Pierce III, 39, also known as Frederick Tomcezak, approached Sotheby’s auction house about selling it.

Both men were arrested Tuesday in the home they share in Monteagle, Tenn., a mountaintop community about 83 miles southeast of Nashville. They were each released on $20,000 bond and ordered to appear in court April 5.

The document, believed to be the only copy of the treaty, is being held by the FBI in New York.

While Sotheby’s listed its value as between $50,000 and $75,000, a spokesman for the French Press Service in Washington said its historic value is far greater.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Tammy Combs of Chattanooga said she has little information on the defendants except that they ``both have Ph.D.s.″

Rooney was a visiting history professor at the University of the South in Sewanee, about six miles from Monteagle, during the 1995-96 school year, said university spokesman Joe Romano. He had no record of Pierce.

The federal indictment alleges Rooney stole the Treaty of Fontainebleau and its four letters of ratification signed by Napoleon I, King Frederick William III of Prussia, Emperor Francis I of Austria and Tsar Alexander I of Russia. It alleges he also stole about 30 letters of King Louis XVIII of France.

The indictment says Pierce approached Sotheby’s in 1995 or 1996 claiming to have bought the treaty from a woman in Lyon, France, about five years earlier. He later mailed the treaty to Sotheby’s, signed an agreement consigning it to be sold at auction, and inquired about selling the letters as well, the indictment said.

Sotheby’s spokesman Matthew Weigman said the auction house listed the treaty for a 1996 sale, which alerted the FBI. ``Our consigner had no idea there were title issues or that the material in any way had been stolen,″ Weigman said.

Attempts Wednesday to reach the archives were not immediately successful. Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicole LaBarbera, who is prosecuting the case, did not immediately return phone calls.


On the Net:

French National Archives: www.archivesnationales.culture.gouv.fr/

Napoleonic Wars: www.napoleonicwars.com/life/life.shtml

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