Wednesday, October 01, 2008

News---Historian Sentenced For Stealing Lincoln Letter

Historian Sentenced For Stealing Lincoln Letter, reporting by Edith Honan; editing by Michelle Nichols and Xavier Briand, Reuters News Service, Sep 19, 2008.

A U.S. historian who pleaded guilty to stealing letters written by former Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln was sentenced to 18 months in prison on Friday. Edward Renehan, 52, pleaded guilty in May to one count of interstate transportation of stolen property and admitted stealing a March 1, 1840, letter by Lincoln and two letters dated August 9, 1791, and December 29, 1778, by Washington.

The letters, part of the personal collection of former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, were taken from the Theodore Roosevelt Association. Renehan had been the acting director of the New York-based historical and cultural group. Renehan later sold the letters to a New York gallery for $97,000, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan said.

Jim Bruns, head of the Roosevelt association, attended the sentencing at Manhattan federal court. He told reporters the letters were "not significant to the shaping of America," but were treasured by Roosevelt, who displayed them in his library. In sentencing Renehan, who faced a maximum of 10 years in prison, U.S. District Judge Denny Chin called the case "baffling."

"By all accounts, Mr. Renehan is a pre-eminent historian and biographer, and yet he engaged in this stealing," said Chin. "It's really hard to understand. I'm not sure that I've heard a convincing explanation." Renehan, who has written six books including one on the Kennedys, said he has suffered from bipolar disorder, which at the time of the thefts, from 2005 to 2006, was undiagnosed. "At the time that I took those letters... I was on an extended manic episode," an emotional Renehan said in his plea for leniency. He was ordered to report to prison by January 2.

Text Source: Thomson Reuters 2008.

And From the May 21, 2008 New York Post:

Ill Served: Edward Renehan Says Bipolar Disorder Led Him To Steal Historic Letters By Lincoln And Washington, Kati Cornell, New York Post, May 21, 2008

A sticky-fingered historian has 'fessed up to lifting two prized letters by George Washington and another by Abraham Lincoln and selling them for nearly $100,000. Edward Renehan, former director of the Theodore Roosevelt Association in Oyster Bay, LI, is facing 24 to 30 months in federal prison after pleading guilty yesterday to transporting stolen goods across state lines.

The letters by Washington, dated 1778 and 1791, and Honest Abe, written in 1840, sold for $97,000 at a Manhattan gallery, according to court papers. The Lincoln letter was handwritten and signed more than 20 years before he became president. The Washington documents just carried his signature. While the contents of the letters have only minor historic significance to the presidents, they are rare and valuable, defense attorney Peter Brill said. Renehan, who has written six books, is also facing state charges in Nassau County for stealing a fourth letter from the association he once headed - this one by Roosevelt.

In it, the 26th president, who kept a vacation home in Oyster Bay, discusses the death of his youngest son, Quentin, in 1918 during World War I. Brill said Renehan, 51, left his post as director of the association last year, before the thefts came to light, after he learned he had been suffering from a previously undiagnosed bipolar disorder. "This was a single aberrant act in an otherwise pretty impressive life," said Brill, adding that Renehan is a "very successful author" and had no pressing need for cash.

"He takes full responsibility," Brill said. "It's just that in that state maybe you do things you wouldn't do if you were thinking clearly." Renehan is due in court on the state case on June 13 and faces a maximum sentence of seven years behind bars. "I suspect we'll try to work out a disposition that will cover everything," Brill said.

The historian was arrested before he could sell the Roosevelt letter, which has been returned to the association. Renehan is well known in history circles, having penned books on Cornelius Vanderbilt and the Kennedy clan. He says on his online MySpace page that "biography" is his first love and that he is devoted to "green" politics and folk music, even claiming to have once sung with Pete Seeger. He admits to having bipolar disorder and says, "I continue to pick the shattered pieces from one of my last great expended hypomanias."

Text Source: New York Post
Photo Source: New York Post

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