A gangster who stole 'Wizard of Oz' ruby ​​slippers has been spared prison


For a dying gangster who admitted stealing the famous ruby ​​slippers worn in The Wizard of Oz, there's no place like home – after he escaped jail time on Monday.

Terry John Martin, 76, faced a Minnesota judge who sentenced him to time served for the 2005 robbery, which saw the reformed thief come out of retirement to make a “final score” by breaking into the Judy Garland Museum on the Grand. The slopes and passes of the bright red shoes the actress wore while filming Dorothy.

An ailing Martin remained stone-faced as the judge handed down the sentence – and was physically unable to fully rise from his chair at the end of the hearing.

His attorney, Dane Deckery, said resolving the case should put an end to the government, the museum, the famous shoe collector and Martin himself.

“They will never be healed in this case,” Deckery said of the victims. “But they are more complete than they have been in the last 18 years.”

Retired gangster Terry John Martin, 76, is on trial for the 2005 theft of Dorothy's ruby ​​slippers from the 1939 musical “The Wizard of Oz.” AP
Martin's lawyer said he was convinced by a former colleague to steal the slippers from the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. AP

Martin is in hospice care and is expected to die within the next few months. It also requires continuous oxygen therapy to treat COPD.

Chief U.S. District Judge Patrick Schiltz accepted the prosecution and defense's recommendation that Martin be sentenced to time served due to his deteriorating health.

During sentencing, the judge, speaking loudly from his oxygen machine, told the defendant that he probably would have been sentenced to 10 years in prison if it had been 2005.

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As part of his sentence, Martin will be required to pay $23,500 in restitution to the museum at a rate of $300 per month.

John Kelsch, founding director of the Judy Garland Museum, said the recovered ruby ​​slippers will be auctioned off. AP

“I certainly don't want to downplay the seriousness of Mr. Martin's crime,” Schiltz said. “Mr. Martin intended to steal and destroy an irreplaceable part of American culture.

It was all based on a misunderstanding about the film's value, Martin's lawyer wrote in a court filing before his sentencing.

Martin had left a life of crime behind him in the late 1990s and was living as a law-abiding citizen when, in 2005, he was contacted by a former associate with mob ties, who told him about the ruby ​​slippers worn by Garland in the classic 1939 film. They had to be embellished with real gemstones to justify their insured value. amounting to one million dollars.

“At first, Terry declined the invitation to participate in the robbery. “But old habits die hard, and the thought of the end result kept him awake at night,” Deckery wrote in the memo. “After much consideration, Terry had a criminal relapse and decided to participate in the robbery.”

Martin was not charged with stealing the shoes studded with sequins and glass beads until last year.

Prosecutor Matthew Greenlee said in court Monday that investigators used phone records to zero in on Martin, and used his wife's immigration status as leverage to search Martin's home and force him to confess to the theft.

In October 2023, he pleaded guilty to theft of a large work of art, and admitted to using a hammer to smash the glass door of the museum and a display cabinet to take the slippers.

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Martin was wrongly led to believe by a mob member that the shoes were covered in real rubies. AP

Martin said at the hearing in October that he hoped to remove what he believed to be a real ruby ​​from the shoe and sell it. But one of the people who trade in stolen goods, known as fencing, told him the jewelry wasn't real.

Martin disposed of the stolen slippers after they had been in his possession for less than 48 hours.

Martin had no idea about the cultural significance of the ruby ​​slippers and had never seen the movie “The Wizard of Oz,” according to the lawyer.

Instead, “old Terry,” who had a long history of burglary and receiving stolen property, overcame “new Terry,” who became a “contributing member of society” after his release from prison in 1996, the memo said.

After learning that the ruby ​​on the shoe was fake, Martin gave it to his old partner and told him he never wanted to see it again, Deckery wrote.

The FBI recovered the shoes in 2018 during a sting operation in Minneapolis, after someone contacted the bureau saying they could help track down the stolen artifacts in exchange for a $200,000 reward offered for their safe return.

Martin declined to identify any accomplices, and no one else has ever been charged with the robbery

The slippers are one of the most famous and popular props in the history of cinema, with an estimated value of $3.5 million. Everett Group

Federal prosecutors estimated the market value of the slippers at $3.5 million.

In the beloved film, Dorothy, played by Garland, had to tap the heel of her ruby ​​slipper three times and repeat, “There's no place like home,” to return to Kansas from Oz.

She wore several pairs during filming, but only four original pairs are known to exist.

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Hollywood memorabilia collector Michael Shaw loaned one pair to the museum in Garland's hometown before Martin stole them. The other three are owned by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Smithsonian Museum of American History and a private collector.

The slippers were returned to Shaw and are currently being held by an auction house that plans to sell them after a roadshow, said John Kelsch, founding director of the Judy Garland Museum.

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