Prosecutor Seeks Stiffer Sentences For 2 In Rare Book Thefts

Jun 29, 2020

Prosecutors asked a judge to stiffen the home confinement and probation sentences imposed on 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.

Common Pleas Judge Alexander Bicket sentenced 56-year-old John Schulman earlier this month to four years of home confinement and 64-year-old Gregory Priore to three years of home confinement. Both were ordered to spend a dozen years on probation after completing their sentences.

Priore, former manager of the rare books room at the library, 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. The judge told the two men that if not for the pandemic, their sentences would have been stiffer.

Deputy District Attorney Brian Catanzarite suggested Friday that Bicket sentence the two men to “total confinement” and said he wouldn't object to suspending home confinement until they can be lodged safely. A prison term, he said, would reflect “the serious and atypical nature of the offenses to which they pleaded guilty.”

Catanzarite earlier asked the judge to sentence both men to two to four years in state prison.

“The history of our nation was stolen and resold merely to feed the defendants’ avarice,” he wrote, saying Priore and Schulman "plundered irreplaceable cultural treasures for which money provides no substitute.”

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.

Officials said the library discovered the missing items during a 2017 appraisal that concluded that more than 340 books, maps and images had been stolen over 20 years. Both defendants apologized to the city, its residents and the library.

Schulman's attorney said they will respond to the memo “in due course" while Priore's attorney said it was still under review.