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NILES McKinley document found on eBay



Published: Fri, April 4, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



The local library has the 1901 police mug shot of the assassin.

By SHERRI L. SHAULIS

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

NILES -- A piece of history associated with President William McKinley is back in Erie County, N.Y., thanks to the keen eye of a Buffalo attorney.

The original court docket from Leon Czolgosz's trial for the 1901 assassination of McKinley is back after it was rescued from the Internet auction site eBay.

The single-page document was expected to fetch as much as $6,000, but the sale was canceled once authorities were alerted it was stolen from the Erie County Courthouse in Buffalo, N.Y.

"It started last Friday when I got a call from the local U.S. attorney's office and they asked, 'Do you have the records for the trial of Leon Czolgosz?'" said David J. Swarts, clerk of courts in Erie County.

Swarts said authorities got involved in the hunt for the document after Buffalo lawyer Glenn E. Murray, who has participated in re-enactments of the assassination, found the listing on eBay.

Murray informed federal officials and the auction house that posted the document for someone else, that the docket was stolen property.

Swarts said after he got the call, he went to the basement records room in the courthouse to check for himself. "I looked in book number 25, page 15, and it was missing," he said.

Swarts said it's unclear when the document was taken, but he suspects it took place within the past year. The page was not cut from the book, he added.

"It's an old book, and the binding was separated," he said. "I think they just nudged it out."

The document details the two-day trial of Czolgosz, an anarchist who moved to Buffalo from Cleveland and shot McKinley twice while the president shook hands of well-wishers in a receiving line during the 1901 Pan-American Exposition.

McKinley, who suffered gunshot wounds to chest and stomach in the Sept. 6 attack, died of gangrene Sept. 14. Czolgosz was indicted Sept. 23 and sentenced to death just days later.

Before his execution by electric chair Oct. 29, Czolgosz said he killed McKinley because he was "the enemy of the good people! ... I am not sorry for my crime."

It's not the first time public records have been removed from the courthouse, Swarts said. Books of marriage certificates and immigration records were removed from shelves and stored on microfilm to prevent theft, he said.

Several other historical documents related to Presidents Grover Cleveland and Millard Fillmore, who have ties to Buffalo, have also been subject to theft.

In the future, he added, the court docket -- which was returned to the Erie County District Attorney's office Tuesday -- will be kept in a display case. Authorities continue to investigate how the auction house came into possession of the document.

Lucky in Niles

Linda McGinnis, public relations coordinator for the Niles McKinley Memorial Library, said officials there have been lucky when it comes to the extensive collection of memorabilia associated with the former president.

"We've never had anything stolen," she said.

She said the local collection does not have a copy of Czolgosz's court dockets, but the library did acquire his police mug shot within the past year.

Patrick Finan, director of the library, said the mug shot was purchased from a children's museum in Indiana.

"There was a woman whose father was a police officer in Buffalo and was in the precinct house when Czolgosz was brought in," he said. "He took possession of one of the photographs."

The officer took the picture -- one of only three or four known to exist, Finan said -- when his family moved to Indiana. The photograph was included in a donation of yearbooks and other items his daughter made years later to the children's museum.

Will be moved

The mug shot and several other pieces of the collection will be moved from the library to the McKinley Home and Research Center on South Main Street when it opens in early May, McGinnis said.

A dedication ceremony for the center, which is on the site where McKinley's birth home was located, is set for May 4, McGinnis said.

slshaulis@vindy.com




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