Texas papers stolen, some discovered on fraternity house lawn

TEXAS — Officials are still seeking out possible suspects after 2,700 copies of The East Texan, Texas A&M University at Commerce’s student newspaper, were stolen last month and some wound up on a fraternity house lawn.

Texas A&M at Commerce Police Department Lt. Jason Bone said no one has been identified as a suspect, but interviews with the fraternity in question, Delta Tau Delta, have been scheduled.

Fred Stewart, the newspaper’s adviser, said an eyewitness told one editor that two students on bicycles took the papers from news racks, placed them in backpacks and rode off. Bone said the president of Delta Tau Delta later dropped off a large trash bag with about 300 copies of the stolen newspaper at the school’s journalism building, saying that the bag was found on the fraternity house’s front lawn.

Delta Tau Delta was mentioned in the stolen issue’s cover story about students being arrested for furnishing alcohol to a minor, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Newspaper staff members filed a report with campus police and gave the recovered materials to investigators. Campus police said even if a suspect is identified, they are awaiting word from the district attorney’s office whether criminal charges will even be accepted. Texas does not have a law explicitly criminalizing newspaper theft.

But in 1995, criminal charges were filed against a student at the University of Texas at Austin after he was accused of stealing 5,800 copies of The Daily Texan. He entered a guilty plea and received six months probation.

“As with [similar cases], there’s always the argument, how can you steal something that’s free?” Bone said.

Bone said even if the prosecutor does not accept the case, campus police will continue its investigation so that the university can impose its own disciplinary action.

“Most of the administrators think there should be some kind of sanction,” Bone said. “Even though it’s free, there’s still the cost of reprinting the issue and the labor that went into it.”

Stewart said the newspaper lost about $1,200 in advertising and printing costs because of the theft. The university president paid for a reprint of the issue, he said.