Police arrest three students for Maine newspaper theft

MAINE — The newspaper thieves struck again Monday atboth University of Southern Maine campuses, but this time thepolice caught three students with approximately 750 copies ofthe student newspaper in their vehicle.

Police arrested the three individuals after discovering themtaking copies of The Free Press from the Portland campus.Two students, Anthony Pergola and Jonathan McCorkill, have beensummoned to court for the theft, police are still investigatingthe third individual’s involvement, according to University ofSouthern Maine Police Chief Lisa Beecher. Beecher declined torelease the third individual’s name until he is summoned to court.

Prior to the arrest, police were notified that all the copiesof the newspaper were stolen from the Gorham campus, giving thema chance to watch for similar action at the Portland campus.

Pergola, McCorkill and the third unnamed suspect were caughttaking the paper from the Portland campus, Beecher said. Theyhave not been implicated in taking the 1,000 copies at the Gorhamcampus or for the papers stolen last week.

Although they are considered three separate incidents, Beechersaid she "wouldn’t be surprised" if the three theftcases were related. Police are still investigating the Gorhamcampus theft and the missing papers from last week. "We haveleads, and we still have several witnesses to talk to and getstatements from," Beecher said.

"There is no way these three could have stolen [the newspapers]from the other campus because it’s half an hour away, so it’sone of those things where there are definitely more people involved,"said Steve Peoples, executive editor of The Free Press.

Although The Free Press is a weekly publication, thismarks the second time copies of the paper have been stolen ina week. The first incident occurred Thursday, when a total ofapproximately 1,000 copies of the Oct. 22 issue were reportedmissing from both campuses. In the second incident, 1,750 of theOct. 29 issue, half the press run, were stolen minutes after beingplaced in the distribution racks.

"Now I’m afraid that even though right now three peoplewere arrested, what’s going to stop three more people from goingout 15 minutes later and doing the same thing," Peoples said."How are we going to stop them?"

Beecher said, "Unless someone is watching those newspaperreceptacles 24 hours a day there is always the chance that itwill happen again. All the officers have been notified and theywill give those areas special attention."

Peoples said he believes the thefts are in relation to articlesthat ran in both issues portraying the fraternity and sororitycommunities in a negative light.

The past two weeks, The Free Press has devoted someof its coverage to opinion of and controversy within the fraternityand sorority organizations on campus.

The Oct. 22 issue contained a "question of the week"asking students "Are you a Greek fraternity/sorority member?"Six people, all non-members, responded to the question, and offeredunfavorable opinions of Greek life.

The issue was revisited in Monday’s issue, this time featuringa story about disciplinary actions being taken against the sororitySigma Iota Sigma.

Peoples said he believes the suspects are "absolutely"fraternity members. Beecher said Pergola was a member of a fraternityon campus, but she was unsure if McCorkill was also.

The Oct. 29 issue contained a stern letter to the editor fromthe university’s president, Richard Pattenaude, condemning thosewho stole the newspapers on Thursday.

"It is important for everyone to know that taking a pressrun of The Free Press issues from sites on campus is theftand will be treated as such by USM Police and by the Office ofCommunity Standards," Pattenaude wrote.

Visit our Newspaper Theft Forum, featuring a checklist of things to do before, during and after a theft, along with our past coverage of theft incidents.Read our related coverage.