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Charges Against Suspect in Bible Theft Dismissed


Charges against the man accused of attempting to steal the Gutenberg Bible from Widener Library August 20 were in effect dismissed yesterday by Judge Lawrence F. Feloney of East Cambridge District Court.

Feloney ruled that the defendant. Vido K. Aras. was not legally responsible for his actions on August 20 because of mental illness. As a result. the judge found no probable cause for the charges against him-which in effect dismissed the case.

Aras, who was defended by a lawyer from Harvard's Community Legal Assistance Office, had been charged with breaking and entering with the intent to commit larceny and the possession of burglar tools.

"The ruling meant that Aras lacked the mental capacity to commit the crime." John C. Cratsley, Aras's lawyer, said yesterday. The law defines mental capacity as being able to tell right from wrong and being able to appreciate the consequences of one's actions, he added.

Confidential Report

A confidential report by the superintendent of the Boston State Mental Hospital was the basis for the judge's ruling on Aras's mental condition at the time of the crime. Aras, a 20-year-old Dorchester resident. had been committed to the mental hospital for observation at his arraignment on August 28.

Before the judge reached his decision. Aras told him he would return to the hospital as a voluntary patient to resume his mental therapy. Cratsley said Aras is not in legal custody at the mental hospital. but is subject to the same restrictions imposed on other voluntary patients.

Although the medical report was confidential. the judge's action in permitting Aras to become a voluntary patient appeared to rest on some finding of progress in his mental therapy. Cratsley said that Aras had shown improvement.

No Contrary Evidence

Neither the Cambridge police nor the Harvard University police attempted to present evidence contrary to the medical report.

On August 20 University police found Aras lying unconscious beneath a rope hanging from a Widener Library window. Two volumes of the Bible were in a knapsack next to him on the ground. Police said Aras appeared to have fallen while climbing down the rope.

Aras refused to talk with reporters after the trial.

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