The man found guilty of stealing two rare books worth about $60,000 from Van Pelt Library last August was sentenced to one year and one day in prison yesterday by a federal court. William Witherell, 39, of San Gabriel, California, admitted last January that he had taken the books, which police had found in his parents' California home. He was charged with two counts of transporting stolen property across state lines. Judge J. William Ditter yesterday sentenced Witherell to three years of "supervised release," a form of probation, after he serves the jail time in federal prison. Witherell has also been ordered to seek "such psychological treatment as necessary" as a condition of the probation. Public Defender Claire Rauscher said yesterday that Witherell suffers from mental illness. "He likes to collect things," Rauscher said. "He collects things like coins, junk mail, rare books." One of the stolen books was A Catalogue Of Choice and Valuable Books, a 1774 listing of books to be sold by Benjamin Franklin. The library's copy is the only one known to exist, and is valued at $50,000. The second book is a compilation of essays published by Franklin, containing his essay Idea of an English Education and Richard Peter's Sermon of Education. It is valued at between $5000 and $10,000. Rauscher was not pleased with the sentence. "I'm disappointed that the judge didn't depart downward from federal sentencing guidelines," Rauscher said. "My client is obviously disturbed. He won't get any help in custody and I think it will make rehabilitation harder." But Assistant U.S. Attorney Walter Batty said yesterday that he thought the sentence was fair. "It's very appropriate under the new guideline system," Batty said. The sentencing guidelines, established in November 1987, weigh several factors in deciding a sentence and list appropriate sentences for the ratings. Batty said that Witherell received the sentence for the theft because the judge determined that the crime involved prior planning and that the defendant has accepted complete responsibility for his actions. The worth of the books, Batty said, was also a factor. Christine Ruggere, curator of the special collections of Van Pelt, said yesterday that she is pleased with the sentence. "It was a serious sentence for a serious crime," Ruggere said. "The most important thing is that we got our books back."Comments powered by Disqus
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