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A forgotten wallet helps police locate suspected copper thief

By Howard B. Owens
Robert Peachey Roy Hooten

A suspected copper thief forgot his wallet at Home Depot, according to State Police, and when he came back for it, employees identified him as a suspect in the theft.

His alleged accomplice was located in the parking lot.

Troopers and deputies then went on a search in Batavia and Oakfield last Saturday night to locate the vehicle with the allegedly stolen copper.

Eventually, the car was found and Roy Hooten, 52, and Robert Peachey, both of Oakfield, were charged with conspiracy, 5th.

In addition, Peachey was charged with grand larceny, 4th, and criminal possession of a controlled substance, 7th, and was jailed on $10,000 bail following arraignment in Town of Batavia Court.

Hooten is accused of causing a distraction in Home Depot so Peachey could carry the copper to a vehicle waiting outside.

After the two men left, Peachey apparently discovered he didn't have his wallet. The men reportedly parked the car and walked back to Home Depot. By then, troopers were on location and the men refused to cooperate and reveal the location of the vehicle, according to Trooper Victor Morales, public information officer for Troop A, Batavia Barracks.

Five years ago this month, Hooten was arrested for stealing scrap metal in Oakfield. We don't know the outcome of those cases. He was sentenced to two to four years in state prison on an attempted burglary charge and released from prison Nov. 2. In 2006, he was sentenced to one to four years on an attempted criminal possession of a weapon conviction. He was released on parole in August 2007.

Dave Olsen

From one of my all-time favorite movies: Raising Arizona

Counselor: Most men your age, are getting married and raising up a family.
They wouldn't accept prison as a substitute. Would any of you men care to comment.

"Well,sometimes your career's gotta come before family."

"Work's what's kept us happy."

Sep 23, 2013, 6:33pm Permalink
Steve Hackett

I have a simple idea...." if it's not yours and you dIdnt pay for it..DON'T TAKE IT"....probably a little bit to much for these two guys to understand......

Sep 23, 2013, 6:52pm Permalink
Dave Olsen

Very interesting question. I suppose it all depends on one's particular point of view and definition of theft. To me if one were to steal anothers property then they wouldn't be very libertarian as the "non-aggression principal" should prevent one from taking anothers belongings. The thief would also be infringing upon another's right to property ownership. In this case, they are interrupting Home Depots right to market their products in exchange for currency. Is stealing food from a market if you have nothing to eat theft? I say it is, but others might not. Is slipping onto someones wifi without permission theft? Is fishing from a privately owned lake theft? Is "living off the land" theft if you pick apples or berries that are growing naturally on private property? Is it theft if you pick up the potatoes the harvester left behind?
Howard, you once wrote that doing something which diminishes property values for your neighbors is a form of theft.
I content that governments engage in theft every day by coercing us all to pay taxes and allow someone else to decide how it is spent.

But that's just me, I am not the judge of who is and who is not libertarian.

Sep 24, 2013, 6:32am Permalink
Howard B. Owens

Dave, it's one of those questions like does a falling tree in a forest make a sound when no one's around?

One wouldn't be much of a libertarian who had no respect for the personal property rights of others and would infringe on those rights by taking property without authorization.

Taxation without representation is a corrections commission, an unelected body, dictating $1 million on prison guards with elected officials being powerless to do anything about it. That's theft.

Congress voting to spend billions on bombing a foreign country is not a decision you or I would agree with, but at least they're elected, so we did have say in the matter.

I just think if more people understood what personal liberty is all about -- don't infringe on other people either through government coercion or outright theft -- if that was an ethic and moral point of view more widely accepted -- we'd live in a more stable, prosperous and fair world.

Sep 24, 2013, 8:25am Permalink
Dave Olsen

I agree totally with your last paragraph Howard.

I take some exception about congress bombing another nation. If they are elected under false pretenses is that then theft? I get your point though.

I think most folks support personal freedom, I also believe most folks are generous and will share what they can spare. Force through taxation is not necessary. Unethical people or those of questionable character will always be with us, I just think too much attention is spent on them and that they are a small minority.

Your original question is still interesting, and I thank you for getting me thinking a little deeper today. Probably got some others going as well..

Sep 24, 2013, 8:51am Permalink
Kyle Couchman

LOL that's an easy one Dave. We are always wrong according to them. As they will remember everytime before the unheard statement and point to that as evidence that you are incorrect as a behavioral certitiude. :)

Sep 24, 2013, 8:54am Permalink
Jeff Allen

It is not the Libertarian who is the thief anymore than it is the Democrat, Republican, Independent, Jew, Christian, Muslim, Black, White, Asian, Male, Female, etc. It is the person who is the thief regardless of monikers, distinctions, or what they use as a moral compass. Thievery knows no distinctions.

Sep 24, 2013, 10:20am Permalink
Billie Owens

I cannot fathom people who get convicted of a crime, serve years in prison and then get out and commit another serious crime within months of leaving the penitentiary. Why don't these people get "corrected"?

Sep 24, 2013, 11:06am Permalink
Dave Olsen

Jeff: libertarian with a small l not a capital L, denoting a philosophy instead of a Political Party.
I have been thinking of this subject while going about my business this morning and I think I have a scenario where a libertarian (small l) might justify theft.
Let's say I know of someone who possesses an object of significant value, like say a sculpture or some sort of relic, which was obtained through plunder or looting. Maybe long ago. If I also knew of the rightful owner or heirs and I also knew the person possessing it wasn't going to return the item, so I steal it and return it to the rightful owner. If you believe that possession is a big part of proving ownership I could be accused of theft.

So in answer to your question Howard, I'll go with: Yes, Indiana Jones

Sep 24, 2013, 11:25am Permalink
Dave Olsen

I don't understand it either, Billie. It's a great question to ask those who think we should keep spending more money on jails and hiring more correction officers and making more laws and stiffer penalties. I think the system as it is is broken and we need to take a different look at crime and punishment.

Sep 24, 2013, 11:29am Permalink
Howard B. Owens

Dave, is that theft or recovery?

If a person doesn't own a thing and has no rightful permission to possess it, and it's taken by another person not for personal gain, I'm not sure it's theft, even in the eyes of the law.

Sep 24, 2013, 11:45am Permalink
Kyle Couchman

LOL Sometimes it isnt that clear Howard. In diving and recreational divers recovering (plundering) shipwrecks that very subject matter.

Divers believe if they recover something from a wreck that it's theirs. Technically there is a process they go through. Let make it something simple. A guy dives and recovers a uboat anchor in Alex Bay, NY. (thats the St Lawrence River) Does that anchor belong to him? Or does it belong to NYS as there is a law that everything on the bottomlands (river or lake beds) is the property of NYS. Or does it belong to the German Govt?

If I was to steal that anchor and give it to the NYS museum or the German embassy in NYC is that theft on my part?

Check out the nuances on the actual caselaw on the common "finders keepers" laws in NY and the US.

heres a link I have from the NYS Museum that describes the complexities a bit.

Sep 24, 2013, 1:53pm Permalink
Mark Brudz

No matter what you do to rehabilitate, some will always choose to go against the law, against what is right and against what makes sense.

Sep 24, 2013, 1:57pm Permalink
John Roach

After years of working in prisons like Attica, the answer is complicated. One, we really do not offer real rehabilitation. That would cost too much for the public. And so many times an inmate coming back as a parole violator or on a new sentence would say he (or she) was not going to work for minimum wage or have to go to work on a steady basis. Many times they would just say that doing crime is what they do.

Sep 24, 2013, 3:53pm Permalink
Dave Olsen

You have a ton more experience and knowledge of criminal code than I. But it seems to me that even if the actual act of taking the object is a recovery, wouldn't the act of breaking into his house or other structure be unlawful? As kyle points out, sometimes the proof of ownership is a grey area, even if you know what's right. A lawyer once said to me, it's not what's right that counts, it's what can be proven clearly.

Sep 24, 2013, 4:55pm Permalink
Howard B. Owens

I thought about checking into this further ... and didn't ... but it's my understanding of the law that it's only burglary if you enter a structure with the intent to commit a crime. If you entered a structure with the intent to use the phone to call a mark in a con, it would be burglary. If you enter a structure without the intent of committing a crime, it would be trespassing. For example, if you entered a house with the intent to sleep on the couch, it's trespassing.

So if the intent is to recover property (recovering property is not, I do not believe, a crime) (though, I imagine you could get in a tangled legal dispute over who rightfully owned something), so it would be trespassing.

But take that whole element out ... your friend's bike is stolen. You're walking down the street and you find the bike on the public sidewalk in front of the house of the person who you believe stole it. You take it with the intention of returning it to its rightful owner, is that a theft?

I think not.

I also think it's only a theft if your intent is to deprive the rightful owner of property and keep it for your own personal benefit.

Therefore, a libertarian who truly abides by libertarian principles could never steal (which isn't the same as a libertarian having a lack of judgement in a particular situation and taking something he or she shouldn't).

Sep 24, 2013, 5:33pm Permalink
Jeff Allen

When does possession end? If a person loses an item of value and has neither the means nor the ability to search for it, does it cease to be their property? If so, is there a time limit? There are those who like to search for valuables with metal detectors. They often come across items such as coins, rings, jewelry, etc.. The person who was the original owner may not have had the opportunity or ability to recover it. Does it then become free domain for the finder or does that individual have the obligation to make every effort to determine the owner and return it? Is it stealing to simply keep it? In most cases, I am quite certain the original owner would prefer to have it returned.

Sep 24, 2013, 8:17pm Permalink
Dave Olsen

In my opinion Jeff, if there is a mark or something that distinguishes the object in a way that would allow someone to identify it, then yes one would have the moral obligation to find the owner. Certainly if it had engraving or something on it. It may not be possible. I'd say not so much every effort to find the owner, but reasonable effort. As to a rare coin, there isn't really any way to determine who might be the owner, so no, one would not have that obligation. I was also thinking of a situation where someone once told me of jogging through a bus terminal in a hurry to catch a bus. She saw a plain paper bag sitting on the floor by itself in front of her, nobody near it. She picked it up and kept hurrying and got on the bus. As the bus pulled out of the terminal, she remembered the bag she had forgotten during the rush of just making the bus on time and getting a seat, putting bags in the rack above etc. She looked in the bag and it contained $300 in 10s and 20s & nothing else & nothing on the bag. She kept the money and decided it was divine providence. I didn't know her much, so I said nothing, but thought she should have at the very least contacted the terminal and asked if anyone was looking for it and could describe it. If not then it's hers, if so, she should get it to the terminal manager and let him/her return it to the owner.

How about a fun poll question to test the honesty of Batavians Howard?
If you found a paper bag of money on the sidewalk, what would you do?
1. Grab it and walk away quickly
2. Call the Police
3. Donate it to charity
4. Run an ad on The Batavian lost & found

maybe someone can think of other possible responses.

Sep 24, 2013, 9:51pm Permalink
Mark Brudz

As to whether or not the example Dave gave is theft or not, I am pretty certain it is not, it is not 'Divine Providence' in my opinion either. It is rather a question of ethics however.

Placing cash in a paper bag was a purposeful act, someone would be at loss. The proper thing to do would be to turn over to police and file a proper report. Even in the case where someone would discover it after riding the bus, the police in the next town is sufficient. By law, after a certain period of time and still unclaimed, it would become yours anyway (That is divine providence)

Turning it over to the station manager would not be appropriate in that you would have no guaranty that a proper report would be filed and the rightful owner if seeking to recover it would actually do so. Those chances increase dramatically with a proper police report.

That all said, the ethical question still exist, and that is.IS IT THE RIGHT THING TO DO?

Sep 24, 2013, 11:51pm Permalink

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