Newspaper theft bill moves in Mass. legislature

MASSACHUSETTS — A bill that would explicitly criminalize the taking of free-distribution newspapers is progressing in the state legislature here.House bill 1456, sponsored by Rep. Brian Dempsey (D-Haverhill) was the subject of a public hearing before the legislature’s Criminal Justice Committee in March and is expected to be voted on in committee in May.The bill, which was introduced in January, was in response to the September theft of over 2,000 copies of the student newspaper at Northern Essex Community College. The newspaper thieves objected to an article in the paper that they believed criticized welfare recipients.Maryland is the only state with a law on the books that explicitly prohibits the taking of free newspapers. That statute was enacted in 1994 after four different free-distribution publications around the state experienced newspaper theft problems in 1993. Most existing state theft laws should allow the prosecution of free newspaper theft as well.