UC Berkeley student pleads no contest to Nobel Prize theft | TheUnion.com

UC Berkeley student pleads no contest to Nobel Prize theft

OAKLAND ” A student charged with stealing the first Nobel Prize medal received by a University of California, Berkeley professor from a display case pleaded no contest Tuesday as part of a plea deal.

Ian Michael Sanchez, 22, a UC Berkeley biology student, had faced up to one year in prison if convicted of felony grand theft for taking the medal awarded to Professor Ernest Lawrence in 1939 for inventing the cyclotron, a particle accelerator which helped spawn the nuclear age.

As part of the plea deal, prosecutors reduced the charge to misdemeanor vandalism. Alameda County Superior Court Judge Sandra Bean sentenced Sanchez to three years’ probation and ordered him to perform 150 hours of community service and to undergo counseling.

Neither he nor his defense lawyer commented on the plea as they left court.

Sanchez worked at the Lawrence Hall of Science, a museum and research center where the medal was kept, when the prize was stolen from a locked display case in March. He showed it to his fraternity brothers, and an informant notified police.

The medal, which was found in the attic of Sanchez’s parents’ Modesto home, no longer is on public display.

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