Time flew by. Before Margaret realized it, the archive librarian announced that it was time to close. The young man stood up, put on his coat, and walked out. Suddenly the archive librarian picked up the phone and spoke in a panicked voice. After she hung up, she rushed toward the door.
“STOP!” she yelled.
The next thing Margaret knew, a security guard came into the room. The librarian and the security guard examined the table where the young man had been sitting. She could overhear the word “stolen”. A second security guard rushed in,
“We found him in the men’s room. He still had the items on him.”
The trial began two months later; Margaret was called as a witness. The judge asked her what she had seen that day. Margaret didn’t feel she had much to add but she was able to identify the young man who had been sitting near her in the archive research room. When the young man took the stand in his defense, he told the judge that he was a graduate student. He did not have sufficient money to pay his fees. He had been recruited by an art dealer to steal an artifact for a client who was a collector of ancient Babylonian items. The temptation was too great to resist; he agreed to steal the small clay tablets.
The judge sentenced the student to three months community service and a fine of five hundred dollars. Margaret felt the judge had been too lenient. In her mind, stealing and selling antiquities was the same as stealing a nation’s history and culture. Was a small fine and community service enough punishment? And what about the art dealer? Was he going to be charged?
As she filed out of the courtroom, she noticed a bedraggled woman sitting on a bench. The woman had a young baby on her lap and a diaper bag at her feet. Just at that moment, the guilty young grad student came out of the courtroom and walked up to the woman. They both began to cry. All Margaret could hear was the young man saying,
“I did it for us. I am so sorry.”