Smiley sentenced for Beinecke theft

The antique map dealer who admitted to stealing millions of dollars worth of maps from several prestigious libraries — including Yale’s Beinecke Rare Books and Manuscripts Library — was sentenced to three and a half years in prison Wednesday in federal court.

U.S. District Court Judge Janet Arterton handed down the sentence to Edward Forbes Smiley III yesterday, nearly 16 months since Smiley was arrested by the Yale Police Department with more than $800,000 dollars worth of stolen maps on his person. Following Smiley’s arrest in New Haven, federal authorities conducted a separate investigation that linked him to the thefts of at least 97 maps from museums and other academic institutions.

Several Yale administrative and library officials said they were pleased with the outcome of Smiley’s case and felt that justice had been served.

University Deputy Secretary Martha Highsmith declined to comment on Smiley’s specific sentence, but said she trusted that the judicial system acted appropriately when determining Smiley’s fate.

“From our understanding, many of the maps that were stolen have been recovered and can be returned for scholarly use,” she said. “I think that is what’s really important.”

As sentencing drew nearer, spokespeople from several of the institutions affected by the thefts said they were pushing for Smiley to receive the maximum sentence of 71 months. In the weeks before the sentencing, Catriona Finlayson, an employee at the Map Collection at London’s British Library, told the News in an e-mail that the library would be asking for a harsh sentence for Smiley to deter future thefts.

Highsmith said that in the months since Smiley’s arrest, most of the libraries affected by the thefts have reevaluated and fortified their security systems in hopes of preventing similar crimes from occurring.

University Librarian Alice Prochaska could not be reached for comment Wednesday night, but previously told the News that Yale carefully evaluated its security system following Smiley’s arrest. Although she declined to comment on specific changes that were made at the time, she said the University’s security system had been strengthened.

Yale President Richard Levin declined to comment on the sentencing.

Despite new security measures, Highsmith said the University remains committed to sharing its resources with the community. Even the most precious materials, she said, remain available to “legitimate” researchers and academicians.

“We are stewards of a vast repository of irreplaceable material, where it is art or books or musical instruments or dinosaur bones,” she said. “There would never be feeling at Yale that we should lock these things up.”

Smiley, a frequent visitor to the Beinecke, was arrested after a Yale librarian spotted an X-acto knife blade in the area in which Smiley had been sitting. YPD officers arrested Smiley just blocks away and found a total of seven rare maps on Smiley’s person, including a map drawn by the founder of Virginia’s Jamestown colony, John Smith, which dates to 1614 and was valued at approximately $50,000.

Smiley will appear in New Haven Superior Court next month to receive sentencing for his local crimes.

Comments