Chilmark Man Jailed for Rare Map Theft

U.S. District Court Judge in Connecticut Sentences E. Forbes Smiley 3rd to Three and a Half Years

Gazette Senior Writer

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - In the end, cooperating with the government carried more weight for map thief E. Forbes Smiley 3rd of Chilmark than the calls for punishment from the institutions he had wronged.

On Wednesday in federal court in New Haven, Conn., U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton sentenced Mr. Smiley, who has admitted stealing 98 rare maps from seven institutions, to three and one-half years in federal prison. Judge Arterton also ordered him to make restitution to those he defrauded, mainly rare-map dealers and collectors, of $1.9 million.

In doing so, Judge Arterton followed a recommendation by government prosecutors to sentence Mr. Smiley, 50, more leniently than is laid out in the guidelines for his admitted crime, which call for a prison sentence of between 57 and 71 months in prison.

The 42-month sentence, Judge Arterton said, also corresponds to the period of time that Mr. Smiley identified as engaging in his thefts, starting in 2002 and concluding in June 2005.

By giving weight to Mr. Smiley's extensive cooperation in identifying the maps he had stolen, many of which could not otherwise be tied to him, Judge Arterton declined to go along with the pleas of the institutions he had victimized to punish him severely.

While the value of the 98 stolen maps has been estimated at more than $3 million, the institutions said the cultural and historical value of the maps loom even larger.

Resentments over slights, along with a need to support expensive tastes and cover mounting debts, fueled Mr. Smiley's systematic looting of early North American maps hundreds of years old from the institutions, according to the government's sentencing memorandum.

Mr. Smiley's thefts came to an end in June 2005 when he was arrested by Yale University police after an employee at the university's Beinecke Library noticed Mr. Smiley had dropped an X-Acto knife on the floor. Police subsequently found five stolen maps from the Beinecke Library in his briefcase.

In June, Mr. Smiley acknowledged in court that he had stolen a 1578 rare map titled Vninersi Orbis, sevterreni glo, from the Beinecke Library. Under law, the theft of the map, a piece of cultural heritage more than 100 years old and worth more than $5,000, is a federal felony.

In sentencing Mr. Smiley, Judge Arterton chose not to fine him for his crime. Under the guidelines, she could have fined him between $10,000 and $100,000. She said she anticipates that making restitution will bankrupt him.

Mr. Smiley will undergo three years of supervised release following his release from prison. He also was ordered by the judge to inform any antiquarians with whom he comes in contact of his felony conviction in the case.

Judge Arterton ordered Mr. Smiley to surrender on Jan. 4 either to a federal marshal or at the satellite camp at the federal prison at Fort Devens, should the federal Bureau of Prisons choose to assign him there.

"Obviously," the judge said, "Mr. Smiley is a thief - a good one," one who was able to steal rare maps from institutions for three and one-half years.

Yet, she said, Mr. Smiley also has said he worked hard to reunite the maps with the institutions from which he stole them. "I don't see anything else he could do to remedy it," she said.

Thus her interest, she said, in sending a dual message: that serious crimes of this nature will be punished, but that cooperation in helping to right the wrong will be acknowledged.

Before the sentence was pronounced, Mr. Smiley made a statement of contrition.

"Your honor, I have hurt many people," he said. In particular, he said he had stolen valuable research materials from institutions that make it their business to provide those materials to the public.

"I am deeply ashamed of what I have done," he said. "It was wrong."

By the time Yale police interrupted Mr. Smiley's thefts, he had, according to the government, taken 34 maps from the New York Public Library; 33 from the Boston Public Library; 10 from the Beinecke Library and 10 from the Sterling Memorial Library, both at Yale; eight from the Houghton Library at Harvard University, two from the Newberry Library in Chicago; and one from the British Library in London.

Six of the maps - three from the New York Public Library, two from Boston Public Library and one from Sterling - remain missing and may never be recovered.

Although Mr. Smiley did not speak to the press following the imposition of the sentence, his attorney, Richard Reeve of New Haven, called the sentence extremely fair. Mr. Reeve said his client would not appeal the sentence, since the judge departed downward from the sentencing guidelines.

But a representative of one of the victimized institutions, Clive Fiel, director of scholarship and collections at the British Library in London, said he was very disappointed in the sentence. Mr. Field said he calculated the sentence amounted to 12 days in prison per stolen rare map. In a pre-sentencing memorandum, the library had called on the judge to sentence Mr. Smiley to 78 to 97 months in prison.

U.S. Attorney Kevin O'Connor, speaking to reporters outside the courthouse following the sentencing, said he could understand how the institutions were unhappy about the more lenient sentence.

But Mr. O'Connor said the case was unusual in that nearly all of the maps have been recovered. In white-collar crime, he said, a more typical recovery rate is pennies on the dollar.

Mr. O'Connor said federal prisons differ from state prison in that no specific reduction in sentence is available for good behavior. But he said a federal inmate with good behavior may be required to serve only 85 to 90 per cent of their sentence, which in Mr. Smiley's case would work out to about 36 to 38 months.

Mr. Smiley still faces sentencing in Connecticut state superior court on three felony larceny counts, stemming from the theft of three rare documents from Yale University. He pleaded guilty to the felonies in June. The judge in that case likely will sentence Mr. Smiley to five years on each count, which would run concurrently with his federal sentence.

The anger of the victimized institutions toward Mr. Smiley was palpable in the statements that their representatives made in court prior to his sentencing.

David Ferriero, chief executive of the research libraries at the New York Public Library, the most heavily victimized institution, minced no words. Mr. Smiley, he said, had struck at the library's core mission.

"I am here today to talk about the actions of a thief - a thief who assaulted history, betrayed personal trust and caused irreparable loss of treasures whose value to future scholarship now will never be known," Mr. Ferriero said.

"Like most thieves, this one committed his crimes for personal gain," he said. "For profit. For prestige. To support a lifestyle of illicitly obtained luxury and comfort."

Bernard A. Margolis, president of the Boston Public Library, said it was difficult to express either forgiveness or compassion toward Mr. Smiley, given the crimes he had committed against the citizens of Boston and the broader world.

"I could use that old cliche, to throw the book at him," Mr. Margolis said.

"It would be an atlas, in this case?" the judge asked.

"It would be," Mr. Margolis replied. "A big one."

William Stoneman, librarian at the Houghton Library, emphasized that Mr. Smiley had engaged in a deliberate, extensive, carefully planned and executed series of thefts. He asked the judge to impose the maximum penalty under the law.

Yale library system representative Frank Turner said that Mr. Smiley, by removing and tampering with the maps and books that housed them, has struck at the very life of intergenerational research.

Robert Karrow, curator of special collections at the Newberry Library, stressed that research libraries are in business not to make money, but to collect knowledge and make it freely available.

"This is the kind of ‘business' that Mr. Smiley chose to ransack for his personal gain," Mr. Karrow said.

Mr. Field, of the British Library, called Mr. Smiley "a serial thief on an industrial scale."

Going forward, Mr. Field said, Mr. Smiley's breach of trust will disrupt research. "In the delicate balance between security and access," he said, "the libraries will have to shift still further toward security, denying legitimate users access to information where we consider access will pose too great a risk."