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Press Release

Grandson Of Naval Historian Pleads Guilty To Stealing Historical Records Relating To His Grandfather And Is Sentenced

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Maryland

Baltimore, Maryland - Samuel Loring Morison, age 70, of Crofton, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to theft of government property, specifically, historical records related to his grandfather, Rear Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison.

U.S. District Judge William D. Quarles, Jr. also sentenced Morison today to two years’ probation with the conditions that: he not access any library or archives without the permission of his probation officer; and he cooperate with investigators and archivists in identifying any other government property in his possession.  In imposing the probationary sentence, Judge Quarles cited Morison’s failing health, his prior military service and his cooperation with investigators.

The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge Darrell Gilliard of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), Washington Field Office; and Acting Inspector General James Springs of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) - Office of Inspector General.       

“It's gratifying that NCIS could work with our law enforcement partners to identify and arrest the person responsible for these thefts , and thereby help preserve the illustrious history of the United States Navy,” said NCIS Special Agent in Charge Darrell Gilliard.

James Springs, NARA's Acting Inspector General, stated, “Thefts from our nation’s historical record are an affront to all citizens, regardless of where those records are housed.  I appreciate the hard work of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, NCIS, and NARA OIG to insure that this behavior will not be tolerated.”

According to his plea agreement, on April 12, 2014, Morison allegedly offered to sell records relating to Rear Admiral (RADM) Morison’s work during World War II to the owner of a bookstore, who subsequently agreed to take possession of the records, place them on consignment through his shop, and sell them using eBay.  On May 12, 2014, special agents with the National Archives and Records Administration Office of Inspector General reviewed the historical records being offered for sale through eBay.  The special agents, assisted by the former curator of the Navy Archives determined that the records belonged to the Naval History and Heritage Command's Navy Archive, and were the property of the U.S. government.

On May 21, 2014, a search warrant was executed at Morison’s residence and approximately 34 boxes of government records and property stolen from the Navy Archives were seized. The investigation revealed that Morison was a part-time researcher at the Naval Historical Foundation from March 19, 2010, and had access to the records, known as the “Office Files of RADM Morison Papers.”  Morison was never given authority to remove the records from the Navy Archives.

Morison faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for theft of government property. As part of his plea agreement, the government will ask the court to require that Morison be prohibited from visiting libraries and archives without prior approval from his probation officer.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised NCIS and the NARA Office of Inspector General for their work in the investigation.  Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant United States Attorney James G. Warwick, who prosecuted the case.

Updated February 4, 2016