Man who stole Revolutionary-era rifle from museum decades ago sentenced to 1 day

A Revolutionary-era flintlock rifle made by John Christian Oerter in 1775 and recovered by the FBI in 2019 on display during a repatriation ceremony.

A 78-year-old Pennsylvania man who stole a uncommon Revolutionary-era rifle from a museum in 1971 was sentenced Tuesday to someday in jail and a 12 months of dwelling confinement, prosecutors mentioned.

Thomas Gavin, of Pottstown, was additionally fined $25,000 and ordered to pay restitution of $23,385.

He saved the flintlock rifle, made in 1775 by gunsmith Johann Christian Oerter, in his barn for 47 years after stealing it from a show case on the Valley Forge State Park Museum, officers mentioned.

The theft might need remained unnoticed if not for a vendor who’d purchased it in 2018 and later realized its significance, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported because the artifact was returned to its rightful homeowners the next 12 months.

“I truly thought it was a copy,” antiques vendor Kelly Kinzle mentioned on the time, in line with the newspaper. “My first inclination was that it needed to be pretend, as a result of the actual gun isn’t going to indicate up in a barn in right this moment’s world. Issues like which are already in collections.”

Gavin pleaded responsible in July to a single rely of disposal of an object of cultural heritage stolen from a museum, prosecutors mentioned.

His lawyer didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark Tuesday evening.

The lawyer argued in court docket paperwork for no jail time, citing Gavin’s age and well being issues, which embrace a stroke that he suffered three years in the past.

“He stole this rifle for his personal appreciation,” to not earn money, and it was offered for a fraction of its true price, the lawyer argued in a sentencing memorandum. He added that Gavin is a collector of every kind of previous gadgets that he saved in his barn. 

Gavin admitted stealing different weapons and gadgets from different museums within the Nineteen Sixties and Nineteen Seventies, a few of which had been offered together with the uncommon rifle, and he helped authorities establish their rightful homeowners, prosecutors mentioned in court docket paperwork.

“After 4 a long time, justice lastly caught up with this defendant,” Jennifer Arbittier Williams, U.S. Legal professional for the Jap District of Pennsylvania, mentioned in a press release.

The Christian Oerter rifle that was stolen and recovered is just one of two identified rifles to have survived with its authentic flint mechanism bearing the maker’s identify, website and date of manufacture, the U.S. lawyer’s workplace mentioned. The opposite is within the Royal Assortment at Windsor Citadel, it mentioned.

The rifle belongs to the Pennsylvania Society of Sons of the Revolution. It was on mortgage to Valley Forge State Park Museum when it was stolen. After it was returned in 2019, it was placed on show on the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia.

Oerter made rifles for the American Revolution in his workshop within the Lehigh Valley north of Philadelphia, which had been a rifle-making heart, in line with the museum.

The uncommon rifle “displays exemplary early American artistry and is a reminder that braveness and sacrifice had been essential to safe American Independence,” museum President & CEO R. Scott Stephenson mentioned in a press release on the time.

When the rifle was stolen, a crowbar or comparable instrument was used to pry off a metallic strip, permitting the glass high to be slid off, the Inquirer reported on the time. A Boy Scout on a tour later seen the case was empty.