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Alleged UVA textbook thief released after six nights in jail

After nearly a week behind bars for allegedly stealing textbooks from a lecture hall at the University of Virginia engineering building, Charles Lewis Hickman, 62, emerged from jail Tuesday afternoon.

UVa police allege that Hickman used a key to enter a room in Thornton Hall on the night of Jan. 4 and take eight textbooks valued at $1,250. In addition to a misdemeanor trespassing charge, the Madison County resident has been charged with three felonies: burglary, grand larceny, and larceny with intent to sell.

In Virginia, theft of property worth more than $1,000 is considered grand larceny, a felony.

Appearing on a video link from the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail Tuesday morning, Hickman appeared calm as he listened to his defense attorney, Jonathan Packard from the Office of the Public Defender.

“He has no violence in his history,” Packard told retired Judge William Barkley, who was substituting in Albemarle General District Court.

Prosecutor Susan Baumgartner offered no objection as Judge Barkley set a $5,000 surety bail, which required no cash to be posted by the man, a self-employed landscaper. Hickman left the jail 12 minutes after noon Tuesday, according to the jail’s records department.

The arrest report by UVa police officer Beckett Thelen alleges that Hickman used a key to gain access to room no. 303 in Thornton Hall, which is a 100-person lecture hall in the engineering school. The report alleges that an officer debriefed but did not detain Hickman after getting a call about the incursion from someone watching surveillance video from home.

But after professor Zongli Lin reviewed the video, Hickman was again approached, this time near the intersection of Ivy Road and Emmet Street, the report alleges.

Officer Thelen noted that he then read Hickman his Miranda rights and found a cooperative subject who directed the officer both to the missing books and to a set of keys.

During an initial bail hearing last week, another judge, citing Hickman’s five-year probation on a year-ago burglary conviction in Harrisonburg/Rockingham Circuit Court, declined to offer an immediate bail.

“It could be a blessing in disguise,” said legal analyst David Heilberg, a veteran of the local courts. “Sometimes locking someone up for a few days sends a message.”

Bail conditions include a directive to stay away from UVa and the professor and require Hickman to register with Offender Aid and Restoration, a non-profit group that supports people charged with crimes.

Upon their exit from the courtroom Tuesday, Hickman’s wife and his attorney declined comment.


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