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Yes, They Can Trace Yahoo E-mails:
That and other lessons were learned by some pretty clueless college students who stole rare books from a college library and tried to sell them to the Christie's auction house. The fact section of the opinion, written by Judge Batchelder, is hilarious. Thanks to Howard for the link.
John P. Lawyer (mail):
If anyone is interested in a full recount of this story, check out the article, "Majoring in Crime," by John Falk in Dec. 2007's Vanity Fair.
2.5.2008 2:15pm
DontTaseMeBigBro:
How are those AutoAdmit defendants feeling now?
2.5.2008 2:22pm
HappyEnding:
Did I read that right? They appealed and will end up serving more time? Nice.
2.5.2008 2:32pm
Steven Horwitz (mail) (www):
The most hilarious part is this:

"Once the robbers had escaped, the police were called, but before the police could document the crime scene, some librarians collected the discarded objects and returned them to their proper places."

Ah, good to see that Homo Librarianus is the same all over the country.
2.5.2008 2:45pm
Temp Guest (mail):
When these guys get out they may have a great future producing and acting in updated Three Stooges episodes for the Internet.
2.5.2008 2:45pm
Bruce:
How in the world did these idiots concoct such a hare-brained scheme?


The three of them went home and hid the stolen objects in the basement of their residence, in a “semi-hidden room” — the entrance to the room was disguised to conceal the fact that they had marijuana growing in there.


Aha!
2.5.2008 2:51pm
Virginian:
The only thing they could have done that would have been any more stupid would be to wear t-shirts that read "I robbed the special collections library at Transylvania University and all I got was this lousy t-shirt."
2.5.2008 2:54pm
another anonVCfan:
I love this line:

"Thus, on Thursday at 3:30 p.m., the robbery was finally at hand and after months of planning, this was the plan: all four men would enter the library, take the books by force, and run for it."
2.5.2008 2:55pm
pgepps (www):
best comments ever. :-) thanks, friends!

"semi-hidden room"

I think these students took my class, once. j/k
2.5.2008 3:09pm
Dave N (mail):
I have to disagree with Steve Horwitz. The funniest part was this:
Thus, on Thursday at 3:30 p.m., the robbery was finally at hand and after months of planning, this was the plan: all four men would enter the library, take the books by force, and run for it.
I am amazed that this became a federal case--and the opinion suggests the Commonwealth of Kentucky prosecuted these four morons as well.

And though it is never nice to make fun of a person's name, isn't "Gooch" a very fitting last name for a librarian to have?
2.5.2008 3:15pm
Westie:
It's nice that the AUSA mentioned in the opinion is so morally challenged that his or her actions need to be mentioned in a court case as being potentially a breach of an agreement with the opposing party.
2.5.2008 3:33pm
titus32:
The opinion states that these guys were charged with "robbery"--can someone remind me the elements of the federal crime of robbery? It can't just be common law robbery, right?
2.5.2008 3:33pm
Cornellian (mail):
They arrived at the library dressed as “old men” — makeup, wigs, hats, and costumes, such as “one would typically see worn in a play or some other type of theatrical performance” — but aborted the plan at the last minute. The exact reason for aborting is unclear; they may have seen a flaw in the plan or simply panicked, though it was suggested that a student, unaware of the impending robbery, recognized one of them and asked what they were doing in those ridiculous costumes. The costumes were sufficiently ridiculous that two library employees, including Susan Brown, the Director of the Library, noticed them, but merely assumed some sort of college prank or goof.

Damn, those guys are geniuses!

I'm guessing they weren't majoring in astrophysics.

Interesting, by the way, that the name of the place is "Transylvania University"
2.5.2008 3:33pm
Cornellian (mail):
Lipka and Borsuk scrambled into the waiting van and Allen sped away, though not before Ms. Brown had scratched the van with a key in an attempt to mark it for later identification.

Somehow, one doesn't expect librarians to be so aggressive.
2.5.2008 3:36pm
Cornellian (mail):
I think the sentencing guidelines should take into account the staggering stupidity of a defendant, but I'm not sure whether that should increase the sentence (to protect both the defendant and society from his stupidity) or decrease the sentence in recognition of the entertainment value that we all derive from being able to read about his adventures in the land of people with an IQ.
2.5.2008 3:39pm
Doug Sundseth (mail):
"Somehow, one doesn't expect librarians to be so aggressive."

Have you ever failed to shush when the librarian said, "Shush!"? (I haven't either, and now you know why.)

8-)
2.5.2008 3:44pm
Anderson (mail):
This has GOT to be made into a movie ... with a portion of the proceeds going to the TU library ....
2.5.2008 3:47pm
JonC:

can someone remind me the elements of the federal crime of robbery? It can't just be common law robbery, right?


Titus, 18 USC 1951(a) (a/k/a the Hobbs Act) reads:


Whoever in any way or degree obstructs, delays, or affects commerce or the movement of any article or commodity in commerce, by robbery or extortion or attempts or conspires so to do, or commits or threatens physical violence to any person or property in furtherance of a plan or purpose to do anything in violation of this section shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.


I'm not an expert on the caselaw, but my guess is that these fools' conduct satisfied the federal jurisdictional requirement because they called Christie's in New York and transported the stolen objects there from Kentucky.
2.5.2008 3:55pm
CEB:
titus32:

I noticed the opinion called the books "items of cultural significance." I'm guessing it had something to do with that.
2.5.2008 3:56pm
John (mail):
What amazes me is that no one at Christie's seemed unsettled that a mysterious emailler had "first additions" worth millions.

And how did they miss Dr. Frankenstein's diaries?
2.5.2008 3:59pm
M. Gross (mail):
From the Herald-Leader:

Lipka said the friends felt liberated. And Reinhard said he "loved" that one of his paintings, A Plan to Fail, which is about the crime, has been made into a screen saver on an FBI computer, according to Falk's article.

"In a few years we'll be released," Lipka says in Vanity Fair. "We'll all be ... still young. We will be stronger, better, wiser for going through this together, the three of us. Before, in college, growing up, we were being funneled into this mundane, nickel-and-dime existence. Now we can't ever go back there. Even if we wanted to, they won't let us."


Yeah, I think we can pretty much rule out any learning from this experience.
2.5.2008 3:59pm
titus32:
Right, the Hobbs Act -- thanks Jon. You're probably right on the federal jurisdiction. God the feds are tough.
2.5.2008 4:03pm
Paul Barnes (mail):
To those who forget the toughness of librarians, need I remind you of Giles from Buffy?
2.5.2008 4:05pm
M.E.Butler (mail):
A few years? Maybe Prof. Cassell can calculate their sentences, and give us an estimate of how much time these poor saps are going to end up doing, with the big bucks enhancement and all.

These guys make those hardened criminals in Office Space look like geniuses.
2.5.2008 4:20pm
ElizabethN (mail):
Actually, I think this is another candidate for funniest line:


In the district court, the defendants produced an expert to testify that the stun pen used in this robbery — advertised as the “Black Cobra 150,000 Volt Stun Gun Pen” — is actually capable of producing no more than 8,000 volts (it is powered by two AAA batteries), and is therefore incapable of causing serious injury, unless it is, perhaps, poked directly into someone’s eye.
2.5.2008 4:53pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
Their level of thinking was exemplified by their decision to use the same fake name and email account both to offer to sell the books, and to arrange contact with the books. "Who's auctioning the books, Walter Becker? Why, he's the same guy who stole them from our library."
2.5.2008 4:55pm
merevaudevillian:
Sadly, I don't think this affects the AutoAdmit case at all. Most of the IP addresses have been long deleted (from 60- or 90-day logs) or are so far untraceable. Criminal investigations in the heat of a crime can be quick; but a cold trail of a civil lawsuit means that nearly all identifying information has been lost.

Additionally, I believe that Yale did try to trace the IP user of one of the e-mails it received, but that the trail came up empty because of savvy Web-track covering, something the amateurs in this case apparently didn't consider. (They had the wigs, though!)
2.5.2008 4:57pm
law student no more (mail):
Wow, that's funny.
My favorite part is the heroic librarians. Good for them.
I love how they put the books back before the police arrived.
2.5.2008 4:58pm
MXE (mail):
Oh my God, I laughed until I cried.

+1 on the suggestion to make a movie out of this. We've got 21, an action/drama about brilliant MIT students hatching a scheme to count cards. How about a farce about idiotic TU students -- complete with hilarious old-man-costume gags and Cheech and Chong moments in the "bud basement" -- hatching a scheme to steal rare books?!
2.5.2008 4:59pm
MXE (mail):
"In a few years we'll be released," Lipka says in Vanity Fair. "We'll all be ... still young. We will be stronger, better, wiser for going through this together, the three of us."

Hehe, I guess when he heard that "youthful mistakes are forgiven," he forgot to read the fine print. (Hint: they're talking about your marijuana closet, not your attempt to steal millions of dollars worth of rare books!)

That said, given their IQ at the time of the robbery, he almost has to be right about getting wiser. Hey, when you're at the bottom, you can't help but go up!
2.5.2008 5:09pm
Chuck C (mail):
" ... this was the plan: all four men would enter the library, take the books by force, and run for it."

"Hee hee hee. 'Get her.' That was your whole plan, huh, 'get her." Very scientific."
Dr. Peter Venkman, "Ghostbusters"
2.5.2008 5:18pm
eck:
Anticipated Future Conversational Ice-Breaker at a Federal Corrections Facility

HARDENED CONVICT (to Allen, Borsuk, Lipka, or Reinhard): What are you in for?
2.5.2008 5:36pm
alias:
"Happy Ending" writes: Did I read that right? They appealed and will end up serving more time? Nice

Yes, but only because the government appealed too. The government can't appeal acquittals, but it can appeal sentences.
2.5.2008 5:54pm
Larry the Librarian:
Ah, respect. Actually, I know a number of librarians who have black belts, so these guys were luckier than they knew. I also liked that bit with the key; it reminded me of the scene in The Big Easy where they drop the brick on the car's windshield.


I love how they put the books back before the police arrived.



I kind of get that. They were already going to have these guys for armed robbery and the books were way too valuable to be dusted for prints or any of that CSI-type stuff, likely to be endangered by being out of climate-controlled storage, and in places where they could be damaged.
2.5.2008 5:59pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):

What amazes me is that no one at Christie's seemed unsettled that a mysterious emailler had "first additions" worth millions.


My guess is that this isn't quite as unlikely as it seems. The items in question are rare, but they aren't one-of-a-kind or nearly so, like a Gutenberg Bible. People without advanced education do end up with rare books and art from time to time, e.g. by inheritance.

A friend of mine, the daughter of an immigrant from England and a local Indian woman, grew up in a tiny hamlet out in the middle of nowhere in northern British Columbia where her father ran a gas station. He did not have an advanced education, but read vociferously. After he passed away, she went through his cabin. She brought me two books in languages she could not read to identify. One was a Chinese book on music published in the 1920s, of no particular value. The other was a Latin missal, the great thick one used by the priest, published in 1635 by Plantin in Antwerp.
That is a real collector's item, worth quite a lot.
2.5.2008 6:19pm
Edward A. Hoffman (mail):
I'm kind of surprised that Transylvania University would have such valuable books (one of them was valued at $4.8 million) in its library. I realize these were from the rare books collection, but even so it seems such books would be way beyond Transylvania's budget. There can't be all that many donors of such works, either, and I would expect most of them to give their collections to larger and/or more prominent institutions. Does it have Transylvania's particularly strong collection, or do libraries at other similar colleges often have such significant books?
2.5.2008 6:20pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):

I'm kind of surprised that Transylvania University would have such valuable books (one of them was valued at $4.8 million) in its library.

Transylvania University was founded in 1780. The rare works in question are from the 19th century, so they need not have been purchased at great expense or donated by a wealthy donor. They may simply have been acquired at the time of publication, before they became so valuable.
2.5.2008 7:00pm
tjvm:
I can't help piling on: You know you're not exactly Danny Ocean when the account of your robbery includes the phrase "fleeing from the librarians."
2.5.2008 7:31pm
chuckR (mail):
The Providence Athenaeum's double elephant folio 'Birds' sold for $5 million in 2005. The original subscription price was $1000. That's one thousand circa 1830 dollars.....a considerable sum.
2.5.2008 8:48pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):

The Providence Athenaeum's double elephant folio 'Birds' sold for $5 million in 2005. The original subscription price was $1000. That's one thousand circa 1830 dollars.....a considerable sum.


According to the Inflation Calculator, $1000 in 1830 was equivalent to $19,224.69 in 2007. Considerable, yes, but not out of the range of what a university library might spend for an important work.
2.5.2008 8:53pm
Houston Lawyer:
Kudos for the librarians. What librarian in his right mind would have left the books lying about while waiting, with tapping toe, for the police to arrive?

You couldn't really make a movie out of this because the movie would have to be believable.
2.5.2008 9:46pm
nitpicker:
"He did not have an advanced education, but read vociferously." That must have been annoying to his housemates. I prefer to read silently, and I encourage those around me do so as well.

That aside, my favorite part of the opinion the line, "They also abandoned other volumes, later, while fleeing from the librarians."
2.5.2008 10:39pm
Cristóbal Palmer (www):
@tjvm the "fleeing from the librarians" line made me laugh until I cried.

As a native of Louisville and a graduate student in Information and Library Science, my reaction is a bit mixed. I keep vacillating between groans and hysterical laughter.
2.5.2008 10:39pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
Don't discount the power of the librarian.
2.6.2008 12:01am
Bill Poser (mail) (www):

"He did not have an advanced education, but read vociferously." That must have been annoying to his housemates. I prefer to read silently, and I encourage those around me do so as well.


Oops. I meant "voraciously".

Reminds me of the story about the witness who referred to his brother-in-law and was asked his name. He thought and thought but couldn't remember. Finally, he jumped up, pointed at his brother-in-law, and cried out: "Nathan, Nathan, for God's sake, tell them your name!"
2.6.2008 12:05am
theobromophile (www):

Consequently, they brought with them a (pink) bed sheet, which they laid out on the floor, for carrying the objects. Apparently, even with their planning, however, they had underestimated the sizes and weights, and they were forced to abandon two of the Birds of North America volumes, which were left in the Special Collections Library, atop the pink bed sheet.

Guys, guys... that pink bed sheet that you bought to for your fraternity's drag show toga party should have been discarded immediately afterwards.

Don't try to use it for anything else, especially not the high-tech part of your robbery plan. Please.
2.6.2008 2:30am
markm (mail):
"Somehow, one doesn't expect librarians to be so aggressive." Only when defending their book collection...
2.6.2008 9:20am
neurodoc:
Lipka's insouciance about the prison time ahead of him is incredible. The bits of Oz that I watched didn't give me the impression that time in the pen was an enjoyable experience.
2.7.2008 12:55am
Xanthippas (mail) (www):
Oh Lord, that is well and truly hilarious.
2.7.2008 12:53pm
abcdef123 (mail):
I have sent this to two law librarian friends. They both loved it. If you know any, make sure you send the link to them.
2.7.2008 4:52pm