Ex-mayor pleads guilty in Wild West museum artifacts case

AP News
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Posted: Jan 23, 2017 12:06 PM
Ex-mayor pleads guilty in Wild West museum artifacts case

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A former mayor pleaded guilty Monday to 20 counts of receiving stolen property related to his ill-starred effort to bring a Wild West museum to his central Pennsylvania city.

Former Harrisburg Mayor Stephen Reed, 67, faces serious health problems and felt pleading guilty was the right thing to do, his lawyer said.

"We think this is an opportunity now to move on with his life and get the treatment he needs for his illness," said attorney Henry Hockeimer Jr.

The plea came before jury selection was scheduled to get underway for Reed's trial on 114 counts. Prosecutors agreed to dismiss the remaining 94 charges.

"We think that this achieves justice for not only the commonwealth, but the city of Harrisburg," said Joe Grace, spokesman for the state attorney general's office.

Hockeimer said all 20 counts to which Reed pleaded guilty involve photos or documents. Reed, who led the city of Harrisburg for nearly three decades, had also been accused of receiving stolen property for other items, including stagecoach equipment and firearms.

Sentencing was scheduled for Friday.

In a statement, Reed said that "more times than I can count," he purchased items that were the same or similar to artifacts being purchased for the museum, which was never built. Reed said he ultimately concluded he ended up with items that belonged to the city.

"How they got into some box when moving out of office seven years ago, I don't know," Reed said. "My guess is they were thrown in with a bunch of similar things in the haste of getting everything packed."

Reed, a Democrat, said he was diagnosed with cancer and recounted his mayoral accomplishments.

"Today's proceeding does not, in any way, affect nor take away from any of that progress," he said.

Reed and city staff traveled the country to accumulate the artifacts, eventually spending about $8.3 million in public money for some 10,000 items. Thousands of them were sold after he took office, producing about $4.4 million. Experts said they were a mixture of items with real value alongside fakes and junk.

A grand jury report issued nearly two years ago said Reed had "an almost pathological preoccupation" with buying artifacts and that some within city staff tried to stop him.