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Ex-Librarian, Bookseller Get Home Detention In Rare Books Theft

Sarah Schneider
90.5 WESA

A former librarian and a bookseller who pleaded guilty in the theft of rare books from the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh in a years-long scheme have been sentenced to lengthy terms of home detention and probation by an Allegheny County judge who cited the coronavirus in sparing them time behind bars.

Common Pleas Judge Alexander Bicket sentenced 56-year-old John Schulman on Friday to four years of home confinement with electronic monitoring and ordered him to pay more than $55,700 in restitution to people who unwittingly purchased stolen books. Schulman said he has already made restitution of more than $100,000.

Bicket sentenced 64-year-old Gregory Priore to three years of home confinement with electronic monitoring. Both were ordered to spend a dozen years on probation after completing their sentences.

Priore, former manager of the rare books room, pleaded guilty in January to theft and receiving stolen property. Schulman, the owner of Caliban Book Shop, pleaded guilty to theft by deception, receiving stolen property and forgery.

Bicket told the two men that if not for the pandemic, their sentences would have been stiffer.

“I hope that this sordid period is a learning lesson for everyone, including the Carnegie Library,” Bicket said. “Without a doubt, were it not for the pandemic, the sentencing for both of these defendants would be significantly more impactful.”

Authorities said Priore stole prints, maps and rare books and handed them off to Schulman to resell them. Prosecutors said several hundred rare items worth more than $8 million were taken in a scheme investigators believed dated back to the 1990s.

Authorities said last year that one of the items stolen, a Geneva Bible published in 1615, was returned to the library after it was traced to the American Pilgrim Museum in Leiden, about 45 miles (70 kilometers) from Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

Defense attorneys argued for probation during the seven-hour hearing, which started Thursday and continued Friday. They described their clients as first-time nonviolent offenders who were remorseful. Schulman’s attorney said he was “heartened” that his client was spared incarceration.

Both defendants apologized Thursday to the city, its residents and the library.

“I’m ashamed of what I did to that room. I’m appalled by my actions,” Priore said, adding that he loved the library. “I am deeply sorry for what I’ve done.”

Both defendants were barred by the judge from profiting from films, books, radio shows or other storytelling platforms “arising out of the facts and circumstances of this case.” Any money offered to either man must go to a fund to help pay back victims, he said.

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