Widener Slasher Found Guilty Of Destruction

Convicted on Two of Seven Counts

Stephen L. Womack, the so-called Widener slasher, was found guilty of two counts of malicious destruction by a Middlesex Superior Court jury yesterday.

Womack, who was charged with mutilating millions of dollars worth of rare books, was acquitted on one count of extortion.

The jury was unable to reach a verdict on four separate indictments of extortion and a mistrial was declared on those counts.

Womack, who awaits a sentencing hearing on March 14, faces up to 10 years in jail and a possible fine, according to Assistant District Attorney Anthony Gemma, who prosecuted the case.

A former Widener Library employee, Womack plead not guilty to charges leveled against him in December 1994, which included a count of receiving stolen property.

But Womack later changed his plea on that count and admitted to slashing the books.

Yesterday the jury found that Womack maliciously destroyed the books in his possession.

On the extortion charges, the jury was trying to decide whether Womack intended to follow through with a series of bomb threats he made in letters to Widener Library and to Northeastern's Snell Library.

According to Womack's lawyer Lee P. Johnson, the district attorney and judge agreed that a mistrial was appropriate given the amount of time the jury was taking to decide the four extortion counts.

Gemma said he was disappointed that the jury could not reach a verdict on all counts, but that the facts of the case were clear.

"This case was unusual in that the facts were not in dispute as much as other cases," Gemma said. "The inferences and intent of the defendant were the issue, so I am not sure I could have presented it in a different way."

Gemma credited the head defense attorney, William P. Homans '41, with arguing a strong case, resulting in the conviction on only two of the seven counts.

"Mr. Homans is probably one of the smartest defense attorneys in Boston," Gemma said. "I am not surprised at all."

Johnson said the defense team plans to reserve any statement on the verdict until after the sentencing.

Johnson would not comment on whether he plans to issue an appeal.