Newspapers at Truman State U. stolen after article on campus rape printed

MISSOURI — Campus police at Truman State University are investigating this month’s theft of about 2,300 copies of the student newspaper, which editors suspect was a retaliation for an article that identified a student charged with rape.

Index editors reported the March 2 theft to campus police, who have since conducted an investigation that has neither identified a suspect nor conclusively ruled anyone out, said Operation Sergeant Chad Whittom of Truman State University’s public safety department.

Sara DeGonia, editor in chief of the Index, conjectured that whomever took the newspapers might have been responding to the article, which included a mug shot, about a student who was charged with sexual assault.

Whittom said editors relayed their theory to campus police, but he said the investigation is still ongoing.

It is not yet clear what consequences those responsible will face if apprehended. Whittom said he is not sure whether the theft of the weekly newspaper could warrant criminal charges. If the thief is identified, he said, he will confer with a public prosecutor to see what, if any, steps should be taken.

Missouri does not have a law explicitly criminalizing newspaper theft but other states have prosecuted newspaper thieves under general theft statutes.

Within the university’s judicial system, suspects could face charges for academic misconduct, he said.

DeGonia said the newspaper has a policy that only the first copy is free, although it is not stated within the publication. Such a statement has been useful in other cases to persuade officials to pursue academic or criminal prosecution of those responsible.

“Honestly we don’t know what we can do at this point except keep in touch with DPS,” she said.

Since the theft, the newspaper has continued its weekly printing of 4,500 newspapers, and DeGonia said it has not altered its coverage to appease hostile readers.

“We’re not shying away from covering that story again this week,” she said.

By Brian Hudson, SPLC staff writer

  • Visit the Student Press Law Center’s Newspaper Theft Forum