No prison time for dying thief who stole ‘Wizard of Oz’ ruby slippers

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A dying thief who confessed to stealing a pair of ruby slippers that Judy Garland wore in The Wizard of Oz because he wanted to pull off “one last score” was given no prison time at his sentencing hearing yesterday (Monday 29 January).

Terry Jon Martin, 76, stole the slippers adorned with sequins and glass beads in 2005 from the Judy Garland Museum in the late actor’s hometown of Grand Rapids, Minnesota.

Martin showed little emotion as the judge handed down the sentence and declined to address the court. However, defense attorney Dane DeKrey said the resolution of the case should bring a measure of closure to the government, the museum, the slippers’ owner and to Martin himself.

The FBI recovered the shoes in 2018 when someone else tried to claim a reward. Martin wasn’t charged with stealing them until last year.

Federal prosecutors have put the slippers’ market value at about $3.5 million (approximately €3.26m).

Sequin-covered ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in “The Wizard of Oz”

Prosecutor Matthew Greenley said in court that investigators used phone records to zero in on Martin, and used his wife’s immigration status as leverage to search Martin’s home and get him to confess.

He pleaded guilty in October to theft of a major artwork, admitting to using a hammer to smash the glass of the museum door and display case to take the slippers.

Chief US District Judge Patrick Schiltz accepted the recommendation of both sides that he sentence Martin to time served because he is housebound in hospice care and is expected to die within the next few months. He requires constant oxygen therapy for chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder and had to be brought into the courtroom in a wheelchair. The loud hum of his oxygen machine echoed through the courtroom.

Terry Jon Martin – 13 October 2023

Schiltz told Martin he probably would have sentenced him to 10 years in prison if it was still 2005. The judge also accepted the recommendation from both sides that Martin should pay $23,500 (€21,700) in restitution to the museum and ordered him to pay $300 (€277) a month.

“I certainly do not want to minimize the seriousness of Mr. Martin’s crime,” the judge said. “Mr. Martin intended to steal and destroy an irreplaceable part of American culture.”

According to DeKrey’s memo, Martin had no idea about the cultural significance of the ruby slippers and had never seen The Wizard of Oz.

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