Former Harrisburg mayor pleads guilty to stealing artifacts

    Former Harrisburg Mayor Stephen Reed walks into court in Dauphin County Monday. Reed

    Former Harrisburg Mayor Stephen Reed walks into court in Dauphin County Monday. Reed

    Former Harrisburg Mayor Steve Reed’s trial was expected to last all week, but instead ended in a matter of minutes on Monday.

    Reed pleaded guilty to 20 counts of theft  for stealing letters, photos, a brochure and other documents dating back as far as 1865.

    Reed, 67, will be sentenced on Friday, and could face jail time.

    Investigators seized the items, worth about $17,000 combined, from Reed’s home and office in June 2015.

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    Reed now says the items got there unintentionally on his way out in 2009, a mistake amid the chaos of packing the contents of his City Hall office that had accumulated over nearly three decades.

    “My guess is they were thrown in with a bunch of similar things in the haste of getting everything packed,” Reed says. “But it happened under my watch, I have to [take responsibility] for it.”

    Reed also spoke about the role his faith played in his decision.

    “My faith in God sustains and guides me and has for a long time — long before the Stage 4 cancer diagnosis and long before this case,” he said. “The precepts of faith require that I take responsibilty, … and that was my ultimate deciding factor.”

    His lawyer Henry Hockeimer says the plea deal comes now because there’s a new state Attorney General.

    “A new team is in place,” Hockeimer says. “They have looked at this and decided this was a case that should be resolved in a fair and reasonable manner way and that’s why we are here today.”

    But Deputy Attorney General Rebecca Frantz disagrees. She has had this case for over a year, and says the changing of the guard had nothing to do with today’s developments.

    “Today’s guilty plea marks a final chapter in a case that has been drawn out for seven years,” she told reporters after court. “And I think it will allow the city of Harrisburg hopefully to put this part of its past behind it and focus on the future.”

    Reed initially faced nearly 500 counts. More than 300 — including all the bribery, conspiracy, racketeering and other corruption charges — had since been dropped or tossed by the court because the statute of limitations had run

    Frantz also says the state’s not changing its stance on returning Reed’s 1,000-plus items unrelated to the 20 charges included in his plea. Hockeimer has filed a motion to get them back. The court’s not dealing with that until March, though.

    Many of the objects match descriptions of city-owned artifacts.

    “Over the years, many, many times I purchased the same or similar items to what the city was separately buying — did so more times than I can count,” Reed said Monday after court, reading from a prepared statement.

    The artifacts were supposed to fill five museums. But only two opened, and thousands of items meant for the other three were later auctioned to help the city pay some of the debt that prompted a municipal bankruptcy filing shortly after Reed’s departure.

    The city avoided full-blown bankruptcy with a half-billion dollar debt deal marked by long-term leases of Harrisburg’s incinerator and public parking system.

    No one else has been charged in connection with the city’s financial crisis, despite a forensic audit published seven years ago that named many people involved in the financial crisis.

    Frantz declined to comment on any other related investigations.

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