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Assistant pleads guilty in historic document theft

A presidential historian’s assistant pleaded guilty Thursday to conspiring to steal valuable documents from archives throughout the Northeast.

Jason Savedoff

Jason Savedoff, 24, entered the plea in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

Savedoff and historian Barry Landau were charged in July with stealing historical documents from the Maryland Historical Society and conspiring to steal documents from other archives. Both initially pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors alleged that Landau and Savedoff had about 80 documents when they were arrested at the historical society in Baltimore in July. About 60 belonged to the society, including papers signed by President Abraham Lincoln worth $300,000 and presidential inaugural ball invitations and programs worth $500,000.

Other documents were from the Connecticut Historical Society and the National Archives, according to prosecutors.

Prosecutors 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.

City prosecutors said that when police officers arrived at the historical society, Savedoff was in the men’s restroom and shreds of paper were seen in the toilet after he left. That led investigators to believe he may have flushed documents.

Searches of Landau’s apartment in July turned up thousands of documents. National Archives workers have already determined that hundreds of those 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.