28 September 2016

Man pleads guilty in New Brunswick Museum plaque theft case

Bruce Lee Marion pleaded guilty to possession of stolen property worth more than $5,000.

By Jericho Knopp, CBC News

A man accused in the case of four stolen bronze plaques from the New Brunswick museum pleaded guilty Wednesday to possession of stolen property.

Bruce Lee Marion had been in custody since he first appeared in court on Aug. 17, and was going to enter a plea on the 22, when his lawyer, Wes McIntosh, asked for more time.

Marion ran his hands through his hair when he was brought into court, then sat down, leaned back and looked around. He rocked back and forth in his chair as Judge Richard Andrew Palmer repeated the charge against him.

Marion pleaded guilty to possession of stolen property, valued over $5,000, between July 27 and Aug. 2.

Scrap value is peanuts

The plaques were reported stolen on July 28, and were last seen by the New Brunswick Museum eight days earlier.

Of the nine, four were missing, appearing to have been pried off with a crowbar.  The other five were later taken inside by staff for safekeeping.

Crown prosecutor Chris Titus said the four plaques were cut into small pieces with the dates ground off, then taken to a scrap metal yard.

The scrap metal dealer thought there was something off about the sale, so he jotted down the licence plate number.

Marion was connected to the theft after he was identified as being in the car when the scrap metal was sold. It is not clear whether he played any part in stealing the plaques.

It's estimated they were sold for $242, a fraction of the total replacement cost, quoted at roughly $3,000.

The plaques, produced by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, recognized Sir Charles Carter Drury, John Hamilton Gray, George McCall Theal and John Clarence Webster. 

"The scrap value is peanuts compared to the actual value," said Titus.

Co-operation was important

Defence lawyer Wes McIntosh emphasized that Marion's ongoing co-operation with the police was important and should be considered when it comes to sentencing.

When he had heard the police were looking for him, he called them and told them to come pick him up, saying where he was.

He admitted to having the property and selling it when asked, saying he had a suspicion that it was stolen, but he'd never actually checked.

"It was his co-operation that was important from the police perspective," said McIntosh.

He is asking for a two-year jail sentence, but that is dependent on the acquisition of a community-based victim impact statement Titus is asking for.

Marion will reappear in court for sentencing on Friday, Oct. 7 at 9:30 a.m.