Pulitzer burglar pleads guilty
A Medford man who tried to make off with a Pulitzer Prize medal, coffeemaker and other items from the Mail Tribune pleaded guilty to second-degree burglary Tuesday.
Kirk Michael Smith, 24, of the 100 block of North Ivy Street, was sentenced to 18 months' probation and 40 hours of community service for the Oct. 5, 2015, burglary that was interrupted by cleaning personnel and Medford police. He must consume no intoxicants and have no contact with the Mail Tribune.
"I'm sorry, and it won't happen again," Smith said in Jackson County Circuit Court during his plea and sentencing hearing.
In a plea agreement, the Jackson County District Attorney's Office allowed Smith to plead to misdemeanor second-degree burglary, rather than a felony, citing his lack of a criminal history and highly intoxicated state during the crime. A misdemeanor second-degree theft charge was dismissed.
"You're lucky you're not walking out of here a felon today," said Jackson County Circuit Judge Kelly Ravassipour.
She said many people make bad decisions while intoxicated, and if Smith spent one day in court, he would see many examples of that.
Smith said he had, in fact, noticed such examples during the time he has spent in court for his case.
According to police, Smith scaled exterior walls of the Mail Tribune and entered the building through a second-floor balcony door the night of the burglary.
Cleaning personnel heard suspicious noises and alerted police. A responding officer found a shoulder bag that contained Smith's identification stashed in bushes. Police discovered Smith holding a coffeemaker, according to the DA's Office.
He appeared intoxicated and had left a trail of footprints in the building and dirty marks on the wall. Police said Smith was trying to steal the coffeemaker, a wool hall runner, a leather bag, wine glasses, a tape recorder, towels and books.
The 1933 Pulitzer Prize medal never left the building, though it had been removed from its usual spot and placed in a second-floor conference room, possibly to be taken from the building later, officials speculated.
While priceless to newspapers that win journalism's most coveted prize, the value of Pulitzer Prizes varies based on what collectors will pay for the medals.
The New York-based newspaper Newsday made national headlines when three of its Pulitzer Prize medals were sold at a California auction in 2007. Newsday's 1954 Pulitzer sold for $7,000, its 1970 medal was auctioned off for $4,500 and its 1974 medal fetched $4,000.
Newsday officials had thought the medals were secure in a lock box kept inside a safe at the paper's headquarters since 1998. When they learned of the auction, they had a locksmith drill open the lock box. The medals were missing.
According to the FBI, two of the medals were recovered from separate buyers in Florida and the third medal was turned over by a Texas-based auction company that had supervised the California auction at which the medals were sold. The third medal had not yet been shipped to its buyer.