Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Ketchum man sentenced in art theft case

Goldberg pleads guilty to possession of stolen property

Express Staff Writer

Sgt. Dave Kassner delivers a bronze sculpture at the Ketchum Police Department Tuesday afternoon for its return to Kneeland Gallery, from where it was stolen more than a year ago. Watching Kassner is gallery director Carey Molter, left, and gallery associate Kristina Farris. Photo by Willy Cook

A Ketchum man has been sentenced to 30 days in jail, fined $3,000 and placed on three years probation after pleading guilty to felony possession of a bronze sculpture stolen more than a year ago from Kneeland Gallery in Ketchum.

The sentence against 49-year-old Gary J. Goldberg was imposed Oct. 30 by Blaine County 5th District Court Judge Robert J. Elgee. Goldberg pleaded guilty on Sept. 1 to grand theft by possession of stolen property.

Meanwhile, the missing sculpture of a bull and four cow elk was retrieved by Kneeland Gallery on Tuesday afternoon after being held as evidence by the Ketchum Police Department since Goldberg was arrested last December.

"We're really relieved that we're getting it back," said gallery director Carey Molter. "We've been without this piece for a year now."

Two other bronze sculptures, one of a moose bust and the other of a bear, were also returned to Kneeland Gallery. The two pieces are believed to have been stolen at the same time as the elk sculpture.

Molter said the elk sculpture is valued at $7,500, while the other two pieces are worth $2,000 each.

She said the three sculptures were most likely stolen during a Ketchum Gallery Walk on Oct. 7, 2005. Since the three pieces were in a storage room and not on display, their disappearance was not discovered until later that month when Molter filed a police report.

The case against Goldberg stems back to Dec 26, 2005, when the missing elk sculpture was discovered at a residence he owned at 145 Bird Drive #D in Ketchum, according to a probable cause affidavit filed by Ketchum police officer David Avelar.

The affidavit reports that Barrett Molter, a real estate agent and the husband of Carey Molter, noticed the sculpture during an open house of the residence.

Avelar wrote in the affidavit that he interviewed Goldberg, who told him that he purchased the sculpture from a "car load of Mexicans" for $500. However, Avelar wrote, Goldberg could not produce a receipt and also acknowledged having possession of the two other pieces.

"Goldberg told me that he suspected the items were stolen from someone's home or from a local gallery," Avelar wrote.

A jury trial for Goldberg was to have started on Aug. 30, 2006, but instead Goldberg pleaded guilty to the charge two days later.

In sentencing, Elgee ordered a withheld judgment, which provides for dismissal of the charge if Goldberg satisfactorily meets the provisions of his three years probation.

According to the terms of his probation, Goldberg is not allowed to consume alcohol or illegal drugs and is prohibited from frequenting bars or taverns. His person, vehicle, residence or property is subject to search at any time by police, and he is required to submit to blood, urine or breath tests at the request of his probation officer or police.

Goldberg's attorney, Michael Kraynick, said neither he nor his client has any comment on the case.

Carey Molter said she feels that Goldberg's sentence was lenient, but she was satisfied with the conditions of his probation.

It was the second theft experienced by the gallery in 2005. A 9-foot-tall wood and acrylic piece depicting an American Indian and entitled "American Horse" was stolen from Festival Field on Sun Valley Road during an installation sponsored by Kneeland Gallery in June 2005. That piece was later returned by two teenage girls who claimed it was taken by friends.

Molter said the gallery has increased security, including camera coverage of remote areas of the store, since last year's thefts.

"It's a sad reflection of the times in this valley," she said.

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