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Published: Friday, 9/19/2008

FBI recovers 2nd book stolen from Hayes Center

BY CHAUNCEY ALCORN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

FBI agents have recovered the second of two books taken this summer from the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center library in Fremont.

Authorities said the rare and valuable book commonly known as The Freeman Code was sold for $35,000 to someone in England through a book dealer in Philadelphia after Joshua McCarty, 31, and Angela Bays, 19, both of Columbus, stole the book in June from the presidential center. Mr. McCarty, who has been convicted for stealing other rare collectibles, then put it up for sale, the FBI said.

U.S. Assistant Prosecutor Tom Secor said yesterday afternoon that The Freeman Code is now in the hands of FBI agents in Texas.

The book was recovered [Wednesday] night, he said. It s in Texas. That s all I can tell you.

Mr. Secor said previously that authorities located the missing original copy of The Freeman Code in another country, but because it was outside the U.S., federal authorities may not have the authority to seize and return it.

FBI Agent Charles Holloway said in most cases, it's up to the law enforcement agencies of other countries to cooperate in returning stolen property, but that their laws may differ from those in the United States.

Mr. Secor declined to be more specific about the book's location or how authorities got it back, saying the matter is still part of an open investigation.

'This was a fabulous investigation by the FBI and the Fremont Police Department,' he said.

Zachary Scranton, 21, of Marysville, Ohio, appeared in federal court yesterday for a preliminary hearing. He is the third suspect in the stolen books case.

Like McCarty and Ms. Bays, who both appeared in court Tuesday, Mr. Scranton faces a federal charge of theft of major artwork for allegedly stealing a different book, commonly known as The Maxwell Code, on Aug. 25 from the presidential center in Fremont.

Authorities said he was paid $300 by McCarty to steal the book, which has an estimated value of more than $100,000.

Now Mr. Scranton faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted, although Mr. Secor said at this time he plans to recommend a sentence of 33 to 41 months for all three defendants.

'That's based on the type of material taken and the value of that material,' he said.

The Maxwell Code was recovered Sept. 11 by FBI agents in Columbus.

Printed in 1795, it was the first book printed in what is now Ohio, and it contains the first printed record of the laws of what was then known as the Northwest Territory.

Fewer than 10 copies are known to exist, and only a couple are in private hands, which adds to its value.

The Freeman Code, printed in 1798, is a virtual reprint of The Maxwell Code.

Presidential Center spokesman Nancy Kleinhenz said The Maxwell Code and

The Freeman Code were owned by President Hayes, who kept them in his library at his Fremont home, which contained thousands of books.

After President Hayes' second son, Webb C. Hayes, dedicated the property in 1922 to the Rutherford B. Hayes-Lucy Webb Hayes Foundation to preserve his father's memory, the books and the library became the foundation's property.

Mrs. Kleinhenz said leaders of the center have met since the arrest of the suspected book thieves and have established new protocol regarding the viewing of rare books and materials in the library.

Authorities said the suspected thieves asked to view the materials and, at some point, walked out of the library with them.

Now the library is creating a contained, 'segregated area' in which people can view rare books and manuscripts under watch of three library staff members in addition to several other new protocols.

All three suspects' next court appearance will be before a grand jury, for which a date has yet to be set.

Mr. Secor said both books will eventually be returned to the presidential center library in Fremont.

Contact Chauncey Alcorn at: calcorn@theblade.com or 419-724-6168.



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