Historian accused in theft case seeks to sell Warhol print

A presidential historian charged with conspiring to steal documents from U.S. archives — including papers signed by Abraham Lincoln — is seeking court permission to sell an Andy Warhol print, other artworks and inaugural medals to cover his living expenses.

Barry Landau, 63, needs cash to pay the $2,700 rent on his New York City apartment, health insurance, food and other expenses, according to a motion filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore by attorney Andrew White. Landau’s terms of release require the court’s permission before he can sell or dispose of any assets.

Prosecutors expect to file a response to Landau’s request soon, but had no immediate comment on the request, U.S. Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Marcia Murphy said Monday.

Landau and his 24-year-old assistant, Jason Savedoff, are charged with stealing valuable historical documents from the Maryland Historical Society and conspiring to steal documents from other archives. Both have pleaded not guilty.

About 60 of the documents involved in the case were from the Maryland Historical Society, including papers signed by Lincoln worth $300,000 and presidential inaugural ball invitations and programs worth $500,000. Other documents were from the Connecticut Historical Society, Vassar College and the National Archives, according to prosecutors.

The men were indicted by a federal grand jury in late July. State prosecutors elected to not pursue theft charges the pair faced in Maryland after they were indicted in federal court.

Landau has been allowed to return to his Manhattan apartment with GPS monitoring. Savedoff, who surrendered his American and Canadian passports, was released on $250,000 cash bail to his mother’s custody and is staying in a Baltimore-area apartment.

White writes in the motion filed last week that Landau may not have much cash to pay his living expenses, but does have items of value that can be sold.

“These items were not seized by the FBI in the multiple searches of the defendant’s apartment and are unquestionably not related to the charges now pending in this case,” White said. “The defendant seeks to liquidate these items because he is now without funds necessary to pay his everyday expenses.”

The attorney said the Warhol print “Liz,” which depicts the late actress Elizabeth Taylor and was a gift from the artist, is the only piece of significant value that Landau is seeking to sell. An expert has valued it at $40,000 to $60,000, he said.

Other items include artworks by Salvador Dali, Francesco Scavullo, Victor Vaserely and LeRoy Neiman, with the Scavullo and Vasarely works each worth about $5,000, White added.

The other items Landau is seeking to sell include presidential inaugural medals he has collected since 1961 and political china such as commemorative plates and figurines that were mostly gifts he received since the 1960s. He also seeks permission to sell coin sets, glass vases he inherited from his mother, jewelry and a collection of letters, photographs and books addressed and inscribed to Landau from political, theatrical and Hollywood figures.

White suggests that a New York attorney who has been helping with the case handle most of the sales and Christie’s auction house handle the sale of the Warhol “Liz” print through a private commission sale or a commissioned auction.

Different routines

Prosecutors have alleged that the historian used different routines to distract librarians and had sport jackets and overcoats altered to allow him to stash documents inside large pockets. They allege that the men had about 80 documents when they were arrested in the historical society’s library in Baltimore in July.

Searches of Landau’s apartment in July turned up thousands of documents. Prosecutors said in early August that National Archives workers had already determined that 200 documents belong to institutions, including Swarthmore College, the Smithsonian Institution, Yale University, Columbia University, the New York Public Library, Vassar College, Cambridge University, the University of Vermont and the Library of Congress.

One comment

  1. Several people have pointed out (in comments on various stories about this subject published elsewhere) that Landau is not a “Presidential historian.” He is simply an amateur collector with an interest in history (and quite possible a thief). I realize that this is an AP story but since there are many versions of it available for copying, you could have chosen a more accurate one (and one a good deal less flattering to Landau).