Thieves Can Profit from Book-Heist Story

Thieves Can Profit from Book-Heist Story

A federal judge ruled in mid-January that the four men who were sentenced in December for book theft and assault at Transylvania University library in Lexington, Kentucky, can keep any profits from selling the story of their crime to the media. U.S. District Judge Jennifer Coffman cited the 1991 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Simon & Schuster v. New York Crime Victims’ Board in support of her decision not to issue an order limiting the defendants’ ability to benefit from the sale of their story, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported January 18.

Eric Borsuk, Charles Allen II, Warren C. Lipka, and Spencer W. Reinhard began serving sentences of more than seven years January 17, although they have filed an appeal for a reduced prison term.

In court briefs, defense attorneys argued that a prohibition on profit was a violation of the First Amendment, while prosecutors contended that forfeiture law would require the men to pay their victims or their legal fees before receiving any proceeds. However, Coffman said the forfeiture provision could be used only if the offense caused physical harm. During the December sentencing hearing she had ruled that Special Collections Librarian B. J. Gooch was not harmed during the incident. Gooch has sued the men for damages in state court.

Attorneys for the men say they have not yet been approached to sell the story, but the Herald-Leader reported that the Court TV show Masterminds is planning a segment on the crime.

Posted January 20, 2006.