UC student pleads not guilty in Nobel caper
Henry K. Lee, Chronicle Staff Writer
Friday, June 8, 2007
A UC Berkeley biology student pleaded not guilty today to a felony grand-theft charge for allegedly stealing the first Nobel Prize the university ever received and then showing it off to his fraternity brothers.
Ian Michael Sanchez, 22, a senior who worked at the Lawrence Hall of Science, where the medal was kept, declined to comment after making a brief appearance in Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland.
Judge Trina Thompson Stanley ordered Sanchez to return to court July 26 for a pre-trial hearing. He is free on bail.
Sanchez admitted to investigators that he had stolen the 23-karat gold medal, worth $4,200, after forcing open a locked display case Feb. 28, UC Berkeley police said in court records.
On March 3, Sanchez "showed the stolen medal to current and former residents of his fraternity house, Sigma Phi, and told them how he stole it," Detective Bruce Bauer wrote in court papers.
Three days later, an informant called campus police and told them what Sanchez had said, Bauer wrote.
When questioned, Sanchez said the Nobel was at his parents' house in Modesto, the detective wrote. Bauer and Sanchez drove to the house and found the medal in the attic, police said.
Sanchez grew up in Modesto, played on the tennis team at Ceres High School, and wants to become a doctor, said his sister, Maria Sanchez, 17. He is treasurer at his fraternity, she said. Police said there was no evidence that the theft was a prank or related to the Greek system on campus.
The prize, awarded in 1939 to physicist Ernest O. Lawrence for his invention of the cyclotron, had been in a public display case at the namesake Lawrence Hall of Science in the hills above the campus. Lawrence died in 1958.