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Harvard's Coin Theft Detective Charged in Assault Indictment

By Peter Frawley

A man Harvard hired to recover $5 million in rare coins stolen from the Fogg Museum in 1973 has reportedly been indicted along with another man by a Bristol County grand jury for assault and battery with intent to kill.

The charges, which remain sealed, are the outcome of the Bristol County district attorney's investigation into the beating of Martin G. Regan, according to this week's Boston Sunday Herald Advertiser.

Regan has been granted immunity as the chief prosecution witness in the case against four alleged participants in the coin robbery. The four have entered motions for dismissal of the charges against them, claiming their arrests were the direct result of testimony illegally coerced from Regan.

Maced and Beaten

In a June hearing on the motions in Middlesex County Superior Court, Regan said he agreed to become a witness for the prosecution in exchange for promises of immunity after he had been handcuffed, maced, beaten and knocked out with a gun by two men who entered his apartment on October 10, 1974.

Regan has identified Irving Richards, a convicted felon and the private investigator hired by Harvard, as one of his assailants.

Barry Haight, attorney for Louis R. Mathis, one of the robbery suspects, named Raymond "Rip" Palmer as the other assailant in an affidavit filed with the clerk of the Middlesex Superior Court.

Daniel Steiner '54, general counsel to the University, said Wednesday that Harvard has no knowledge of Palmer's involvement in Richards's investigation. In a June 3 statement, Steiner said Richards had acted independently in his efforts to recover the coins.

FBI agents had warned Harvard to be careful in dealings with Richards, according to Steiner. Both Steiner and the Boston office of the FBI declined to indicate whether the warning included information about Richards's criminal background.

Harvard Liability

Steiner was hesitant to say whether Harvard is liable for actions Richards committed while he was under contract to the University. "There are different kinds of contracts," he said. "Richards was not an employee."

In the affidavit, Haight says he had met personally with Palmer and Richards, who told him they had beaten Regan and forced statements from him about the location of the coins. They said they were working closely with the FBI, who had directed them to Regan.

According to Harry Mezer, assistant district attorney for Middlesex County, the success of the motions for dismissal of the charges against the robbery suspects hinges on the degree of cooperation between Richards, Palmer and the FBI.

During the hearings, FBI agents admitted knowledge of the beating and said they had provided surveillance for Palmer when he went to Regan's apartment the day of the incident. The Bristol County District Attorney is reportedly investigating charges that Richards and Palmer were on the FBI payroll.

Judge Herbert Travers is studying transcripts and exhibits from the hearing and will decide on the motions for dismissal when the case comes up for trial in October.

Estimates of the value of the stolen coins, nearly all of which are still missing, have ranged from $1 million to $11 million. Steiner said Harvard is still trying to recover the missing coins with the help of official law enforcement agencies.

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