By ANDREA VanVALKENBURG
October 09, 2008 04:00 am
— PLATTSBURGH — Matthew Boire trembled as he apologized for stealing and selling a Civil War uniform, a theft that has landed him behind bars for 90 days.
The 26-year-old Plattsburgh man was facing a possible stint in prison when he returned to Clinton County Court before Judge Kevin Ryan Wednesday afternoon.
Instead, he got 90 days in jail, five years of probation, a $1,000 fine and 200 hours of community service for taking the $3,000 historical artifact from the Clinton County Historical Association and selling it.
Boire tried to maintain his composure when he told the court how deeply his actions have affected not only himself, but the museum and community as a whole.
“I suffer for it every day. Through a thoughtless act, I lost everything,” the avid history buff told the judge.
“It’s something that haunts me every day.”
Boire had been serving probation for stealing other artifacts when he was arrested in connection with the missing coat, which was not included as part of his previous plea agreement.
In court Wednesday, Boire said he had the coat when he was first arrested and got rid of it before officials could charge him in connection with that theft.
“I didn’t know what to do with it,” he told the judge when he was asked why he didn’t return it to the museum back then.
“I was scared it was going to lead to more charges.”
His attorney, Stephen Johnston, said “it appeared to Matthew that the sky was falling in on him, so he panicked” and went out of town to sell the coat, which had belonged to the county since the 1860s.
Johnston acknowledged that his client should have “come clean” about the coat when he admitted stealing the other artifacts, one of which he sold on eBay, but the former museum board member was scared he’d go to prison.
Assistant District Attorney Timothy Blatchley and members of the Historical Association asked Ryan to send Boire to prison for up to three years, the maximum sentence allowed.
But, Ryan said he felt a local jail sentence was more appropriate.
He said Boire’s previous lack of criminal history, coupled with his volunteer work in the community, which was described in detail through letters sent to the court, indicated he wasn’t necessarily suited for prison.
Though Ryan acknowledged that the county has forever lost a valuable piece of local history, he said Boire didn’t deserve what would “await him in the Department of Corrections.”
The judge said that serving jail time and now having a felony record was harsh enough, something Boire’s family agreed with as they wiped away their tears.
Boire didn’t say anything as he was led from the courtroom to begin his sentence on a reduced charge of fourth-degree criminal possession of stolen property.
He had already paid restitution for the coat.