Mobster who stole Wizard of Oz ruby slippers begs to be spared jail

Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz
Mr Martin was convinced the slippers were encrusted with real rubies and kept them at a trailer next to his home - TCD/VP/LMKMEDIA
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In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy clicks the heels of her ruby red slippers together three times to get whisked straight home to Kansas.

Ahead of his sentencing next week for stealing the famous shoes, an ageing mobster has appealed to a US court not to transport him to prison.

Terry Jon Martin, 76, who broke into the Judy Garland Museum in 2005, was lured into “one last score” by an associate who told him the shoes must have been festooned with real jewels to be worth the $1 million they were insured for.

Martin was convinced the slippers were encrusted with real rubies and kept them at a trailer next to his home, his lawyer said in a statement ahead of his client’s sentencing on Jan 29.

His hopes of seeing out his final days on the proceeds were thwarted when a fence said the rubies were, in fact, glass.

The mobster gave the slippers away within two days of stealing them.

They were recovered by the FBI in 2018 and Martin was charged with stealing them last year.

Dane DeKrey, defending, told the court Martin had not committed a crime since being released from prison nearly a decade before the theft of the slippers.

“At first, Terry declined the invitation to participate in the heist. But old habits die hard, and the thought of a ‘final score’ kept him up at night.

“After much contemplation, Terry had a criminal relapse and decided to participate in the theft.”

He had never seen The Wizard of Oz and had no idea of the significance of the slippers, Mr DeKrey added.

Mr Martin has a life expectancy of less than six months
Mr Martin has a life expectancy of less than six months - DAN KRAKER/MINNESOTA PUBLIC RADIO

Now wheelchair-bound, requiring oxygen at all times and living in a hospice, Martin has a life expectancy of less than six months.

“I think when someone is at the end of their life, they are making decisions that are right for their affairs, and this short answer is because he’s guilty,” he added. “I think he wanted to take responsibility and move on with his life – the little life he has left.”

Both Mr DeKrey and prosecutors are recommending that Martin be sentenced to “time served”, rather than being returned to prison.

In any case, they argue, his poor health might be grounds for release on compassionate grounds.

Martin’s life had been difficult, his lawyer added, having been mistreated in childhood by a cruel stepmother and his three brothers.

Leaving home at 16, he embarked on a life of crime, being convicted of a string of offences including burglary and receiving stolen goods.

When Martin left prison in 1996 he turned his back on crime and became a “contributing member of society”.

But tragedy struck when his month-old twins were killed when his girlfriend’s car was hit by a train after a prison visit.

It drove him back to his old ways.

Martin had never sought to claim a share of the $200,000 reward offered for the slippers.

It was claimed by an associate who approached the insurers in 2017 and the slippers were recovered following an FBI sting operation the following year.

They were in “pristine” condition.

The slippers had been loaned to the Garland Museum by Michael Shaw, a collector of Hollywood memorabilia.

They were one of four pairs worn by Judy Garland in the 1939 classic, which won five Oscars including Best Film.

Their authenticity was confirmed by comparing them to another pair which was held at the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History in Washington.

“The slippers are instantly recognisable,” Colin Gardner, distinguished professor emeritus of critical theory at the University of California Santa Barbara, told The Telegraph

“The Wizard of Oz is absolutely central to the history of American cinema, much like Star Wars for the next generation.

“America in 1939 was Roosevelt’s New Deal-era and there was a lot of money being pumped into the arts.

“The film was trying to give Americans a picture of optimism at the end of the depression just as Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies were about raising people’s spirits during the 1930s.

“The disappearance of the slippers was a tragedy. But they have been been recovered. This is a really sad story. But given how sick the culprit is now, they shouldn’t jail him.”’

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