Prosecutor drops charges against man accused of stealing papers from library
MARYLAND — The Maryland State’s Attorney dropped criminal charges in late October against Stephen George Tyma, who was charged with removing copies of a free gay newspaper from a public library in Wheaton.
“Now people who take it have carte blanche,” said T.J. Mueller, circulation manager for the Washington Blade. “I was disappointed.”
On July 16, a stack of copies of the Blade was removed from the Wheaton Branch of the Montgomery County Public Library. Tyma was served with a summons on Sept. 20, charging him with the theft. The trial was scheduled for Oct. 25 in the Montgomery County District Court.
On the day of the trial, the state decided not to prosecute the case, said Tyma’s attorney, Edward Powell.
A spokesman for the State’s Attorney’s office would not comment on why the charges were dropped, but said the prosecutor urged Powell to advise his client not to remove copies of the Blade again.
Often police and prosecutors do not pursue thefts of free newspapers that occur on college campuses on the theory that “something free cannot be stolen,” Mueller said, citing a report by the Student Press Law Center. The belief is a misconception because historically, newspaper distribution is based on a common understanding of taking a single copy from the newspaper box, the SPLC report noted.
A successful prosecution must demonstrate that the accused removed the news organization’s papers without its consent and with the intent to deprive the news organization of them, the SPLC report stated.
In Fairfax County, Virginia, opponents of the Blade have been attending meetings of the Board of Supervisors to protest distribution of the free newspaper in the county library system.
(State of Maryland v. Stephen George Tyma)