Published: April 8, 2003
Bill of Rights Investigation Continues, Pratt’s Roadshow Status on ‘Wait and See’
WOODBURY, CONN. — It has been just more than three weeks since the FBI conducted a sting operation in Philadelphia and seized one of the original 13 handwritten copies of the Bill of Rights while it was in the process of being sold to the National Constitution Center. This document, long-lost and claimed by the State of North Carolina to be its property, was being sold by a broker representing the owner, Wayne Pratt, well-known antiques dealer with shops in both Woodbury and Nantucket.
Pratt still maintains that he is anxious to participate in an open civil proceeding that will determine the rightful ownership of the document. He has told Antiques and The Arts Weekly, “I bought the Bill of Rights with an attorney present and paid for it with a check. At no time was there ever any mention that the document had been stolen.”
Hugh Stevens, Pratt’s attorney with Everett, Gaskins, Hancock and Stevens in Raleigh, N.C., said “we were served papers on Thursday and there is a civil proceeding geared to determine who has the right to keep the property.” He added “in our view there is no basis to conduct a criminal investigation.” At present, the Bill of Rights is in the State of North Carolina, but in the possession of the Unites States government.
Pratt has appeared on the last six seasons of PBS’s Antiques Roadshow. Following the announcement of the Bill of Rights seizure, he has been suspended from future appearances “until further notice.” According to Judy Matthews of station WGBH, “as long as Wayne is involved in this investigation, he will not be invited to participate in the Antiques Roadshow.” She continued to say “the outcome of the legal matter could change things, so it has become a wait and see situation.” Appraisers for the Roadshow are not employed by the station, but are invited guests. The only requirement the station makes is for the appraiser to sign off on guidelines set by the show for the participants. The next season for the Roadshow does not begin until July.
As Antiques and The Arts Weekly goes to press, no one has been charged for any criminal offence and, according to Attorney Stevens, “it is an ongoing investigation between Wayne Pratt and the State of North Carolina to determine ownership.”
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