Theft cases have progressed at three universities; two criminal cases are successfully prosecuted
Often when student publications are the victims of theft, administrators are unwilling to investigate and prosecute those responsible. At three schools, however, students have fought to convince officials that stealing papers is a crime.
In Austin, Texas, Corrado Giovanella has been given six months probation and a deferred prosecution after entering a guilty plea to a charge of theft. Giovanella was accused of stealing copies of the University of Texas at Austin’s Daily Texan in August of 1995.
The charge is a class A misdemeanor that involves materials worth $500-1,500. An official in the Austin district attorney’s office said the prosecution did not seek payment for the lost papers or some other form of restitution. The official said prosecutors would have had difficulty proving the papers’ value.
Giovanella was reported in the Texan as having admitted to stealing the papers because of an article that appeared on his arrest for forging a letter of recommendation to gain acceptance to the university.
At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, two students are in the middle of an on-going battle to open campus meetings after they were accused of stealing copies of the student publication, Carolina Review.
The school’s primary student newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel, filed a lawsuit against the school in April of 1996 to open hearings of the university honor court where the students, Rich Fremont and Reza Ardalan, were tried. According to the general manager of The Daily Tar Heel and the general manager of the Carolina Review, both students were acquitted by the school later that same month.
The university’s judicial affairs officer, citing school policy, refused to disclose the outcome of the case, even to say whether the case was resolved.
The officer did, however, provide a copy of the student judicial case listings, which includes an entry: “(2 Students) Restraining freedom of speech of another student or group by removing publications. Plea: Not Guilty. Verdict: Not Guilty.” No other information was given.
The battle between the university and the Daily Tar Heel over access to the honor court proceedings is still pending in court. The students were accused of stealing the publication because of articles in the Review that criticized the student body president, who is a member of Fremont and Ardalan’s fraternity.
In Kentucky, three University of Kentucky students will perform community service for the school’s disabled students or for a Lexington nature sanctuary as punishment for stealing copies of the student newspaper, the Kentucky Kernel in April.
An employee with the Fayette county attorney’s office said two of the suspects, Christopher O’Bryan and Cory B. Petry, entered guilty pleas to class B misdemeanor charges.
A third suspect, John W. Thornton, entered an Alford plea, which, according to the attorney’s office, means there is evidence to substantiate the charge.
All three have entered a program to perform 60 hours of community service. If they successfully complete the program, the charges can be dismissed. But if not, they can be punished with 12 months in jail and/or a $500 fine.
The newspaper’s adviser, Michael Agin, said he was pleased with the outcome of the case.
“We proved the point that theft is a criminal act, that people can be held accountable for their actions…that freedom of the press is important.”
newspaper theft, reports, Winter 1996-97