Former mayor of Pennsylvania’s capital to
go on trial for theft
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[January 23, 2017]
By David DeKok
HARRISBURG, Pa. (Reuters) - A former mayor
of Pennsylvania's capital goes on trial on Monday on charges that he
stole artifacts purchased with public funds for a proposed Museum of the
American West that he hoped to build in his financially strapped city.
Stephen R. Reed, 67, who served as mayor of Harrisburg for 28 years
until a failed re-election bid in 2010, is facing 114 theft-related
counts after hundreds of Western artifacts were seized from his home and
a nearby warehouse.
Jury selection begins on Monday in Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas
in Harrisburg, the state capital. The case is being prosecuted by the
office of state Attorney General Josh Shapiro.
“Mr. Reed is looking forward to a jury not only carefully scrutinizing
the attorney general’s case against him, but also hearing the actual
facts concerning the acquisition of these items,” said his lawyer Henry
Hockeimer Jr. of Philadelphia.
Charges against Reed were filed in 2015 by the former state attorney
general, Kathleen Kane, who resigned last year after being convicted of
illegally leaking grand jury information to embarrass a rival.
Reed traveled to the American Southwest over many years to buy such
artifacts as the dental chair used by Doc Holliday, the
dentist-turned-gunfighter who fought alongside Wyatt Earp at the
"Gunfight at O.K. Corral," according to the charges. Sometimes he
dispatched city police officers to pick up his purchases and return them
Prosecutors say Reed siphoned money from city and school district bond
issues and other accounts for years to pay for the artifacts, but the
statute of limitations prevents charges related to those allegations.
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The “Wild West” museum, as it was dubbed by skeptics, was never
built, unlike a well-regarded National Civil War Museum that Reed
Reed contends he can prove legal ownership of many of the relics
seized from him. Indeed, last year he petitioned the court to order
their return. A decision is expected after a March hearing.
Originally charged with nearly 500 criminal counts, Reed won
dismissal of many of the more serious charges on statute of
limitations grounds last year. Prosecutors are seeking to prevent
the defense from divulging that to the jury.
The former mayor left Harrisburg in financial distress, stemming
mainly from cost overruns on an incinerator retrofit, not the museum
purchases. The city has been under state financial supervision since
2011, and was forced to sell its parking garages to pay off the
The trial is expected to last five days, according to a spokesman
for the attorney general.
(Editing by Frank McGurty and Matthew Lewis)
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