Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Reed Guilty: Longtime Mayor Pleads to 20 Theft-related Counts


Former Mayor Stephen Reed gives his statement with his lawyer, Henry E. Hockeimer.

Former Harrisburg Mayor Stephen Reed today pleaded guilty to 20 counts of receiving stolen property, ending a decades-long saga that began with one man’s ambitious vision for a series of museums throughout the city.

To a surprised courtroom, Reed’s lawyers announced that he had accepted a plea bargain with the state that dropped most of 112 criminal counts in exchange for pleading guilty to two felony and 18 misdemeanor counts. The proceedings lasted less than an hour.

“He’s charged with misappropriating public tax dollars and using them for his own personal gain,” said Deputy Attorney General Rebecca Franz, the lead prosecutor. “This sends a strong message about public corruption.”

This story began back in the 1990s, when Reed and several associates began buying and shipping back to Harrisburg thousands of artifacts for a series of museums he wanted to build in the city. After Reed left office, the city auctioned off most of the items. However, in June 2015, state investigators found some of the artifacts in Reed’s Cumberland Street home and in a nearby storage facility.

A month later, the state charged the seven-term mayor with almost 500 criminal counts, including charges of theft, bribery and evidence tampering. However, the court threw out most of those, determining they violated the statute of limitations because they had occurred too long ago.

Reed called the proceedings “gut wrenchingly humiliating.” He stuck to a script with defense lawyer Henry E. Hockeimer of Philadelphia-based Ballard Spahr by his side. Reed said he personally purchased similar items when the city purchased artifacts. These items got mixed up while moving out of the mayor’s office, he said.

“How they got into some box when moving out seven years ago? I still do not know,” he said. “My guess is that they were thrown in with a bunch of similar things in the haste of getting everything packed.”

He said he takes responsibility for these 20 counts.

The artifacts, valued at more than $18,000 total, included documents, letters and other Wild West relics connected to Native American groups and famous figures such as Buffalo Bill.

A $3,500-value brochure about Geronimo, a late-1880s Apache leader, landed Reed one of two felony counts. A $2,500-value letter from a Missouri convict earned him another felony.

Items worthy of misdemeanors included a check that Oklahoma outlaw AJ Jennings signed and a photograph of an infantry group from Montana. None of the 20 items appear to originate from Pennsylvania.

Reed’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for Friday afternoon. He could face up to 101 years in prison per standard issuing. However, his actual sentence will range from probation to nine months in a county jail, Franz said. Reed, 67, has stage 4 cancer, but appeared healthy at the trial.

City Solicitor Neil Grover said Harrisburg will submit a formal written statement to the prosecution outlining their request for the sentencing length.

“The city is a victim of the crime,” he said.

Reed’s attorney said they still seek the return of the artifacts that Reed did not plead to. Franz said the Office of Attorney General will not return the artifacts.

Franz said the plea deal came together over the last couple of days.

“The fact that the defendant came into court today and entered a plea of guilty achieves justice,” Franz said.

Author: Danielle Roth

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