Is Forbes Smiley Getting Off Easy?

Much discussion about Forbes Smiley’s purported cooperation and the appropriateness of his upcoming sentence on MapHist, where Tony Campbell, referring to the news stories that maps from Harvard and the British Library are still missing, is starting to notice a pattern: “[W]hile the FBI appears to believe that the case is effectively closed,” he writes, “journalists are picking up a widespread suspicion that the 97 maps to whose theft Smiley confessed do not represent the real total.”

This is not in itself surprising; as map thieves go it would almost be typical. Map thief Gilbert Bland co-operated with the authorities, Miles Harvey wrote in The Island of Lost Maps, but likely did not fully disclose all his thefts. Rather than full disclosure, apparently, there was as much disclosure as was necessary to get him out of trouble.

Tony’s also concerned that Smiley may be getting rather preferential treatment from the prosecution:

One particularly worrying feature of this case is the way that the FBI and prosecution come across as if they are acting as Smiley’s defence/defense council/counsel. Kim Martineau, the diligent local reporter on the Hartford Courant, fears that, even if more thefts can be pinned on Smiley, it may make no difference. Those in charge seem mesmerised by the fact that Smiley has ‘cooperated’. Is it unjustifiably cynical to suggest that he might have done so, but only to a certain extent, because he was certain to be found out anyway?

Crime and Federalism points out that being sentenced first by the feds, then by the state, is advantageous.

Map librarians generally call for extreme punishment whenever map thieves are sentenced, but their perspective is obviously not disinterested. Their nervousness is nonetheless understandable: they want map thieves deterred, and there’s a real concern that this plea agreement isn’t going to deter someone else from trying this stunt. (Gilbert Bland didn’t deter Forbes Smiley, after all.)

Smiley is due to be sentenced in September.

More coverage of Smiley’s court appearance from the Guardian and Antiques and the Arts Online.

See previous entries: Breaking News: Forbes Smiley Pleads Guilty; Forbes Smiley Case: Court Documents; Hartford Courant: ‘For Map Thief, a World of Deceit’; Forbes Smiley Case: Nine Maps of Canada; Forbes Smiley Case: Martha’s Vineyard Coverage; Three Missing British Maps Still Missing; Forbes Smiley Case: Harvard Crimson Coverage.