DULUTH — Terry J. Martin, described by his attorney as an aging thief, will not serve more time in prison for stealing a pair the ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in “The Wizard of Oz,” a judge ruled Monday morning at the Federal Courthouse.
Martin struck a plea deal with the federal government for time served.
He has been sick since 2018 and is currently in hospice.
“The theft of the slippers sent shockwaves throughout the world,” Martin’s court-appointed attorney Dane DeKrey wrote in his sentencing response. “But as with all criminal activity, there are levels of culpability. Here, Terry’s is lower than it appears at first blush.”
Martin, from a wheelchair and carting an oxygen tank, pleaded guilty to stealing the slippers in mid-October 2023. In short, direct sentences told in his raspy voice, a few key points in a longtime Minnesota mystery were revealed. It was a late night smash-and-grab from the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids in 2005 that involved little more than an after-hours visit and a sledge hammer.
By the time of the theft, Martin — who had previously led a life of crime — had been out of prison for nearly a decade and living straight in rural Minnesota.
In his colorful sentencing position, court appointed attorney Dane DeKrey wrote about the lure of the job proposed to Martin by a crime boss and the rush of “one last score.” Martin, whose early life was filled with tragedies including the young death of his mother, a cruel stepmother and the loss of his infant twins in a fatal car accident with a train, spent years in prison. Among his areas of knowledge: stealing jewels.
He believed the slippers were made of real rubies, he has said. The truth was that they were just glass and sequins.
Martin was in possession of the shoes for no more than 48 hours, according to DeKrey. Then he washed his hands of the entire project.
“It wasn’t an act meant to set off the international intrigue that it did,” DeKrey wrote. “It was an aging thief committing a crime that he’s lived to deeply regret.”
No one else has ever been charged with a crime related to this case, according to the attorney.
In his sentencing response, DeKrey noted that Martin never sought any gains from the heist. Others did.
“And it wasn’t some cast of low-rent criminals trying to get paid,” DeKrey wrote. “It was people with real juice, whose associations included organized crime and the federal government.”
In an addendum to the sentencing position, U.S. Attorneys Mac Schneider and Matthew Greenley wrote that the Judy Garland Museum and its director at the time of the crime, and the insurance company seek restitution — but requests don’t meet the requirements.
Martin was ordered to pay $300 a month in restitution.
At the time of the theft, the slippers were on loan to the museum in the town where Garland was born. They were one of several pairs she wore in the 1939 classic film “The Wizard of Oz.” The owner of the slippers, Michael Shaw, is a memorabilia collector from California. Last week he declined to comment on the case, but did say he is still the owner of the shoes, but they are not yet in his possession.