The video, shot the morning of March 30, shows Christopher Collins and another man, who hasn’t been charged, waiting in Cook’s courtroom. At one point in the video, Collins can be seen leaning over the edge of the bench and slipping Cook’s gavel into the sleeve of his jacket.
“That’s a motivated thief to steal from a courtroom,” Cook said, although he added that Collins probably didn’t realize there were video cameras in the courtroom.
Cook said he didn’t notice the gavel was missing until Monday when he was having a hearing and reached for it. The last time he recalled having it was during a hearing on March 29, the day before the theft.
Cook and his staff reviewed the video and recognized the man who was with the 39-year-old Collins and police then began checking the other man’s criminal history and linked him to Collins, according to a Lorain police report.
Police arrested Collins, who confessed to stealing the gavel, the report said.
Collins, who has previous theft convictions, told police he had been given a ride to court by a man he barely knows on March 30 and that he left the gavel in the man’s car.
Collins told police that he might be able to get the gavel back.
“If he returned my gavel, I would be a lot less inclined to bring him back in for contempt,” Cook said.
Cook, who has been a magistrate dealing with small claims and traffic cases for about seven years, said he rarely uses the gavel, but sometimes has to bang it to get people’s attention during hearings.
“It was given to me by my wife when I was first appointed, so it has a lot of sentimental value,” he said.
Collins was arraigned Thursday in Lorain Municipal Court on the theft charge and is due back in court later this month.
Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or firstname.lastname@example.org.