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Indicted former law student starts own legal chapter

The Moritz law student indicted last week for allegedly stealing almost $35,000 worth of library books and selling them on Amazon.com has cooperated in the case, prompting OSU’s lead investigator to predict a conviction.

Christopher Brian Valdes, who was a second-year law student when OSU Police charged him with theft in October 2010, stole 387 books from the law library in Drinko Hall, said OSU Police Detective Peter Dragonette, who is the lead investigator of the case.

“I am unable to discuss any details regarding the case,” Valdes said in an e-mail to The Lantern. “I wish my reply could be of more assistance.”

Valdes was indicted for fourth-degree felony theft. His arraignment is scheduled for March 2.

Bradley Koffel, Valdes’ lawyer, declined to comment.

“There’s no reason why we shouldn’t get a conviction out of this,” Dragonette said.

To replace these books, the law library would need $34,600, Dragonette said.

“I would expect him to pay (restitution for the books), but that’s up to the courts to decide,” Dragonette said.

Valdes created two Amazon seller names, Orion Bookstore and Brianisme, from which to sell the books.

“As far as the majority of the books that he stole and shipped to people throughout the country and throughout the world … we have not recovered those,” Dragonette said. “There’s no way for us to get those back.”

Because of the legitimacy of the buying process of the stolen books, Dragonette said recovering them was unlikely.

“It’s just not practical,” Dragonette said. “The books were purchased through legit channels and that’s why we’re holding Mr. Valdes responsible.”

Valdes was enrolled at OSU in the Moritz College of Law Autumn Quarter 2010. He is not enrolled at OSU this quarter, said Amy Murray, an OSU spokeswoman.

“He basically withdrew from school on his own, probably before he could be kicked out or suspended,” Dragonette said.

Murray could not confirm Dragonette’s comment.

“We take no pleasure in knowing one of our students was indicted,” said Bruce Johnson, associate dean for information services at Moritz College of Law. “He threw away his … career in law.”

Johnson, also a professor of law, said employees at the law library spent hours on the case, going through the “very thick pile of info from Amazon” and determining which books were missing.

“It was spending a lot of time in the stacks verifying if these books were on the shelf or not,” Johnson said.

Johnson said the law library has not yet replaced any of the books.

“Clearly we would replace anything that came in demand,” Johnson said. “If we decided to do it all at once and if they were in print or readily available through used books sources, we could replace them very quickly.”

When the library will replace the books depends on the outcome of the judicial proceedings and what happens in terms of compensation, Johnson said. Also, there are some books that he said would prove more difficult to replace.

“There are some that we know have gone out of print,” Johnson said. “It’s just very sad.”

Police and library officials might never have known that more than 100 of those stolen books were missing if Valdes had not been so cooperative, Dragonette said.

“He voluntarily came in for an interview with his attorney,” Dragonette said. “That’s always a bonus, when you have a suspect that feels like he’s bested and tries to put himself in a better position.”

During an interview, Valdes told Dragonette about his second seller name, Brianisme.

“I appreciated his honesty and I think we ended up finding another 100-and-some books that way,” Dragonette said.

This new evidence is one reason the investigation took so long. OSU police now had a solid case against Valdes, and the courts will expect a plea from him during his next appearance, Dragonette said.

“Investigations take longer than you see on TV shows,” Dragonette said.  

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