60 Minutes: The Art and Ethics of a Surprise Interview; Example Barry H. Landau Presidential Document Thief

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60 Minutes crews don’t show up unannounced very often. Here’s why Bob Simon decided to surprise Barry H. Landau man on his doorstep.

Barry H. Landau is a noted thief of presidential artifacts, collector of presidential artifacts, author, and “self-styled ‘America’s Presidential Historian'”. In July 2011, Landau’s associate, 24-year-old Jason Savedoff, was seen taking a document out of a library. After investigation and searches, he and Savedoff were “charged with stealing valuable historical documents from the Maryland Historical Society and conspiring to steal documents from other archives. “After pleading guilty, Landau was sentenced to seven years imprisonment in June 2012.

Landau and 24-year-old Jason Savedoff, whom Landau falsely had identified as his nephew, were involved in thefts of including letters by Sir Isaac Newton, Marie Antoinette, Napoleon Bonaparte, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, Francis Scott Key, Karl Marx, Thomas Paine, Edgar Allan Poe and George Washington. Seven signed ‘reading copies’ of speeches by President Franklin D. Roosevelt (the actual copies of the speeches Roosevelt read from, including his handwritten edits and additions were also stolen. These included the reading copy of Roosevelt’s inaugural address. Landau sold four of these speeches to a collector for $35,000.

The documents were stolen from the Connecticut Historical Society, Yale University, the University of Cambridge, the New York Public Library, the Library of Congress, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the University of Vermont, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library Swarthmore College, the Smithsonian Institution, Columbia University, and Vassar College. All douments were recovered.

Landau and Savedoff were jailed in Baltimore and indicted by a federal grand jury in late July 2011. Landau was released with GPS monitoring. Savedoff surrendered his American and Canadian passports, and was released on $250,000 bail.

Savedoff pleaded guilty in October 2011, and Landau pleaded guilty in February 2012. On June 27, 2012, Landau was sentenced to seven years in prison. He also had to pay restitution of $46,525 to dealers who unwittingly purchased stolen documents from him.

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