Beinecke thief jailed again

Law enforcement officials investigating the May 21 bombing at the Yale Law School arrested a former Yale employee on separate charges and searched his home Wednesday.

Police would not say whether Benjamin Johnson, 23, of Hamden, is a suspect in the bombing, which destroyed a wall in the Yale Law School but left no one injured, the Associated Press reported. Johnson was convicted last year of stealing more than $2.5 million worth of historic artifacts and documents while he worked at Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

Authorities Friday would not say what they were looking for at Johnson’s house or whether they found anything linking him to the bombing, the Associated Press reported.

Johnson’s lawyer said his client “has nothing to hide.”

“He has no reason to be involved, no actual involvement [in the bombing], nothing,” attorney Penn Rhodeen said.

Rhodeen said Johnson was jailed Wednesday morning after one of his regular meetings with a parole officer. Johnson’s parole officer found two passages about explosives — one from a Frederick Forsyth book and another from a book about a rogue CIA agent — in a notebook Johnson kept in his backpack, Rhodeen said.

Officials searched his house later in the day using a federally issued search warrant, Rhodeen said. FBI and state police conducted the search.

Rhodeen declined to comment on the reason for the search or what officers were seeking in the house.

Johnson is currently under the authority of the department of correction, Rhodeen said.

“The federal authorities [made] it clear that they’re not the ones who decided to jail him — that’s the corrections department,” he said.

In interviews last month, law enforcement officials had sketches of two men they were trying to identify and asked those interviewed if they knew anyone who held a grudge against Yale.

Rhodeen said Johnson holds no such grudge.

“He does feel historically that in connection with the other case… he has been treated fairly,” Rhodeen said. “He’s not somebody with a grudge against Yale.”

Johnson gained access to George Washington’s letters and early copies of “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and “Moby Dick” while working part-time at the Beinecke Library during the summer of 2001. Police said he snipped signatures from the letters and then sold them from his University of Wisconsin-Madison dorm room.

Johnson pleaded guilty in April 2002 to three counts each of first-degree larceny and criminal mischief. As part of his plea deal, Johnson was required to repay Yale and the individuals who bought the signatures as fully as possible.

Johnson served less than a year of his 15-year prison sentence — suspended after 15 months — and was living with his parents at the time of his arrest.

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