Probation, fine for former Harrisburg mayor Stephen Reed

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HARRISBURG, Pa. – Former Harrisburg mayor Stephen Reed will not be going to prison.

Judge Kevin Hess sentenced Reed to two years supervised probation and a $2,000 fine for stealing ‘Wild West’ artifacts from the city. Last Monday, Reed plead guilty to 20 counts of receiving stolen property. In return for the plea, 94 additional counts against him were dropped.

“To go to trial, I would have had to sit up there and tell the judge and jury [these artifacts] belonged to city, or I put up a bogus defense for something I knew wasn’t the case,” Reed said after the sentencing hearing.

Judge Hess said there was “no evidence of guilt” and “a whole lot more smoke” in the case against Reed.

In July 2015, agents in the Office of the Attorney General raided Reed’s Harrisburg home and took items they claimed he stole from the city after his tenure as mayor ended in 2010. Reed initially faced 499 counts of theft of stolen property, which was eventually decreased to 114, before he plead guilty to 20 counts.

Rebecca Franz, lead prosecutor for the Attorney General’s office, was seeking nine months of prison time for Reed due to the two felony charges he plead guilty to.

Judge Hess gave five main reasons for his decision to keep Reed out of prison:

  • Avoiding a trial saved the county “considerable expense”
  • Reed had no prior criminal record
  • During his 28-year tenure as mayor, Reed helped revitalize the city with such business ventures as ‘Restaurant Row’ and City Island.
  • Reed is battling stage 4 cancer, and time in prison may prevent necessary treatments
  • A prison sentence for a case where “no facts advanced” would be “grossly disproportionate” to the crime

Reed served as Mayor of Harrisburg from 1982 to 2010. He bought hundreds of western artifacts for the city in preparation to open a Wild West museum.

Reed said he plead guilty because it was an “honest mistake” when he realized artifacts bought by the City of Harrisburg were lumped in items he claims he bought with his own money.

“It is a relief for this whole thing to be over,” Reed said.

A question remains, however, if the case against Reed is truly over. Even he alluded to “additional details” about the case coming to light in the future, but he would not elaborate.

Reed’s lawyer, Henry Hockeimer, claimed agents took 1,781 artifacts from his home in July 2015. He is looking to reclaim all but the 20 he plead guilty to stealing. A hearing in March will determine whether Reed is able to reclaim those artifacts or if they will go back to the City of Harrisburg.

Current Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse said the city asked the judge to give Reed two to five years of prison. The city also submitted a victim’s impact statement on the damage Reed caused with his spending and accused stealing.

“This was about a systematic pattern of corruption and use of public funds that bankrupted the [Harrisburg] school district, bankrupted the City of Harrisburg, and bankrupted the parking authority,” Papenfuse said.

Papenfuse, like Reed, also believes the case against Reed is not over. He believes Reed’s guilty plea will enable the city to go after “millions of dollars” in civil lawsuits and even possible future criminal cases.

“The leading defendant is a convicted felon now, and that will help the city in reaching settlements and getting its finances back in order,” Papenfuse said.