Officials charged with stealing Dali sketch from jail

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

NEW YORK -- Four Rikers Island jail workers were charged Tuesday with stealing a Salvador Dali sketch worth an estimated $250,000 from a locked display case in the jail's lobby.

Two assistant deputy wardens and two corrections officers were charged with grand larceny and could get up to 15 years in prison. They pleaded innocent Tuesday. The untitled work, depicting the crucifixion in ink and pencil, was removed from the lobby of the city jail and replaced with a copy during an unscheduled fire drill staged by the defendants at midnight on March 1, authorities said.

Dali gave the sketch to the jail in 1965 after canceling a visit. At the bottom of the drawing is a message from Dali, who was never known for correct spelling: "For the inmates dinning room on Rikers Island. Dali."

The sketch was displayed in the jail's dining room for 16 years before being moved to the lobby, where only officers and visitors are allowed.

"Who knew that it might have been safer left in the cafeteria?" said Rose Gill Hearn, commissioner of the city Department of Investigation.

The painting remains missing.

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