Theft charges to be dropped against `Mr. Memorabilia'

Prosecutors base motion on psychiatric evaluations

April 09, 1999|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

Carroll County prosecutors moved to drop theft charges against an Eldersburg man known as "Mr. Memorabilia," based upon psychiatric evaluations, but vowed to revive the case if they find sports collectibles he took on consignment.

Dozens of theft charges against Robert G. Urban have been placed on the inactive docket in Carroll County District Court, said Assistant State's Attorney Jerome Joyce, noting that the defendant has been evaluated as not criminally responsible by three psychiatrists, most recently in December.

Urban, 46, of the 600 block of Tanglewood Road, was charged in a criminal summons in September with failing to pay for or return unsold items to 23 people who had given him baseball and football memorabilia to sell at auction between March 1996 and December 1997.

"As prosecutors, we are obliged to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime has occurred and that the defendant is responsible for committing that crime, and it did not appear that any fact finder would find him criminally responsible in light of the psychiatric reports we had received," said Joyce.

"So going forward with prosecution would probably be a poor use of judicial resources, because the outcome would not likely be in the state's favor," he said.

Urban was represented by assistant public defender Barbara Kreinar, who declined to comment on his condition but said he did not need to be present Wednesday in District Court.

In a 1997 interview, Urban explained his nickname to a features reporter for The Sun: "People would always come up to me at the shows and say `What do you do for a real living?' And I would say `I'm a Mr. Mom.' And that's how I got the name Mr. Memorabilia. They couldn't remember my name, so the next time they'd see me, they'd say, `Oh, it's Mr. Memorabilia.' "

Urban used that name for his now-defunct shop at Carrolltown Center in Eldersburg. He attracted brief national publicity for an attempt to persuade Wal-Mart to pay $1 million for a home-run baseball that he said was hit by Cal Ripken Jr. on Sept. 5, 1995, when Ripken tied Lou Gehrig's record of 2,130 consecutive games.

In December 1997, Mr. Memorabilia Auctions, Shows & Sales Inc. filed for bankruptcy in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Baltimore, listing Urban as its principal and president, assets of less than $50,000, and liabilities of more than $100,000.

"As with a lot of bankruptcies, the creditors never got any satisfaction," said Joyce.

"If we were to find that he has stashed stuff somewhere, we would immediately pursue that information and would waste no time in alerting the bankruptcy court," he said. In such an instance, Urban could be prosecuted for perjury either in state or federal court, he said.

Furthermore, Joyce said his office can remove the Carroll County case from the inactive docket without giving a reason within one year, and by showing good cause to the court after one year.

A criminal summons filed against Urban last fall listed 46 charges: 22 alleging theft of more than $300; one alleging theft by scheme; and 23 alleging theft by auctioning consigned goods and keeping the money.

State police investigators said then that Urban had accepted 1,713 autographed baseballs on Jan. 8, 1994. Other items he allegedly accepted on consignment included thousands of baseball cards, a football autographed by the Baltimore Colts and a Colts helmet worn in a Super Bowl.

Before Urban closed his shop and filed for bankruptcy, he sold a large number of items and did not pay the owners for their property, nor did he return unsold items, the police said.

Pub Date: 4/09/99

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