A legal battle between the daughter of a late Glen Head shop owner and the New York Public Library over ownership of a valuable Benjamin Franklin manuscript and other historic texts could reach a resolution soon.
Attorneys indicated in a Wednesday court appearance they had signed a deal for the library to get the artifacts, which include seven historic bibles, and for the institution to pay a financial settlement to plaintiff Margaret Tanchuck.
However, State Supreme Court Justice Stephen Bucaria decided the case would stay open for now.
He did so after Tanchuck’s Garden City attorney, Amy Marion, said her client hadn’t received satisfactory documentation from the U.S. attorney’s office saying a grand jury investigation involving the artifacts and targeting her client was closed.
“Obviously I can’t settle the case with that outstanding,” Marion told the judge. “… I’m hoping still to work it out with this U.S. Attorney.”
Bucaria agreed that the issue was at “the heart of the case,” and also inquired about the amount of the financial settlement.
But neither Manhattan attorney Henry Ricardo, who represents the library, nor Marion revealed the agreed-upon figure during the Mineola court appearance.
Ricardo argued in court that it was his position that the parties “have an agreement.”
But Bucaria replied: “But that’s not the legal position. That may be your personal position.”
Attorneys for both sides declined to comment after court. The U.S. attorney’s office for New York’s Southern District didn’t immediately respond to an inquiry Wednesday.
Tanchuck, 51, of Glen Head, found the Franklin text and the bibles — one of which is from 1672 — in her father’s jewelry store after her parents died, according to her lawsuit.
The Franklin text is a daily ledger from the founding father’s Philadelphia printing business that dates to 1759, and has an estimated value of more than $2 million.
Tanchuck’s suit also says her father told her around 1990 he owned some very valuable books he kept in his store, but that she doesn’t know how her family acquired the items.
The dispute first arose after Tanchuck sought an appraisal of the artifacts. The library claimed ownership in 2014 after the auction house saw the institution’s call numbers on some of the books, along with a library stamp in one, according to court records.
The U.S. attorney’s office launched a grand jury probe over potential criminal activity relating to the theft of cultural heritage objects, and their possible concealment, after the library told the agency about the matter following contact with the auctioneer.
Tanchuck then filed a lawsuit against the library in April 2015.
Her lawyers have charged that the institution tried to gain an edge by threatening a criminal probe.
However, the library claimed the items were stolen between 1988 and 1991.
Tanchuck’s attorneys countered that she is the rightful owner, arguing in part that her family had the texts for decades and the library failed to pursue their whereabouts.
Bucaria scheduled a trial for January, saying it would go forward if the lawsuit wasn’t withdrawn or settled by then.