Not guilty: Curry prof didn't steal Prada bag

UVA Professor Glen Bull was found not guilty of stealing a woman's Prada bag from the Commonwealth Skybar last summer under circumstances the judge called "very, very suspicious," and even Bull couldn't explain why he didn't tell the bartender he'd found what he thought was a forgotten bag, rather than take it out of the restaurant.


"When this happened, he thought he was going to be a hero," said Bull's attorney, Fran Lawrence. The Curry prof had forgotten his own book satchel a few months earlier in Blue Moon Diner and had had it returned. Said Lawrence, "He himself had been grateful. He never intended to steal the bag."


"There's no rational explanation of why he took it," said Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Elizabeth Killeen.

The June 3 nearly two-hour trial in Charlottesville General District Court came nearly a year after Bull was charged with grand larceny for the alleged purse heist at Skybar. In March, the commonwealth reduced the charge from a felony to petit larceny because the owner of the silver-and-green Prada tote bag and its contents— a MacBook Air, a cream Prada wallet containing $100, debit and credit cards, and a scarf— was out of the country and not able to testify to its value, according to Killeen. Grand larceny kicks in when the value is greater than $200.

The prosecutor showed three security tapes from Skybar. The first depicts Bull being given a seat at the end of the bar. The alleged victim, who is sitting to Bull's left, is talking to a man on her left, and there appears to be an empty space between the two. Bull drinks a beer, then gets up and walks away with the bag, which was hanging on a hook between him and the woman, according to testimony.

A second tape shows Bull sitting on a sofa in the Skybar, still with the bag, and the third tape shows him heading down the stairs and out the door.

Charlottesville Police Officer R.W. Cole was called to investigate July 18, the night the bag went missing, and the bartender gave him a receipt with Bull's name on it. Cole said he called Bull and asked him if he had the purse. "He said, 'No, what are you talking about?'" testified Cole.

Bull, 66, said he was in the Skybar around 10pm, looking for a friend who worked there when his leg hit the bag under the bar. Remembering his own lost book bag, he testified, he took it with him when he left, put it in the trunk of the car, and went home and took a nap. "I was planning to return it to the owner," he said.

When Cole called, Bull said, he initially didn't realize the bag was a purse. And he said he never opened the bag. He took it down to the police station that night, and said he saw the woman to whom it belonged. "The woman indicated she didn't want to press charges," Bull told the judge.

As for why Bull didn't just ask her when she was sitting nearby in the Skybar whether the bag was hers, said Bull, "At the time it never entered my mind. It did cross my mind briefly I should get the bartender's attention."

And he related that Officer Cole asked him a number of times if his judgment was bad. "I agree in 20/20 hindsight," said Bull, "my judgment was bad."

The professor, who has been at UVA for 38 years and is a national figure in digital technology in education, called in four prominent local ed figures, including Bob Pianta, dean of the Curry School of Education, and Rosa Atkins, superintendent of Charlottesville schools, to vouch for his honesty.

"Everything on the tape corroborates his lack of stealth and lack of intent to steal," said Lawrence in his closing.

"It doesn't seem reasonable not to check at the bar," countered Killeen. "It's just common sense to ask."

"Would a normal person ask, 'Is this your purse?'," queried Judge Bob Downer. "I think they would."

However, he added that he didn't see anything furtive and he believed testimony about Bull losing his own bag at Blue Moon. And he noted that purse snatchers  usually don't drive home and leave the bag in the trunk.

"The circumstances are very, very suspicious," said Downer. "But not beyond a reasonable doubt that he meant to steal from her."

Bull looked "almost like a lost soul that night," said Downer, and he found the professor not guilty.

"The judge made the right decision," said Lawrence outside the courthouse. He said that Bull voluntarily had taken a polygraph that showed he was telling the truth— although that was not admissible.

"For me," said Lawrence, "It would be like taking a nut out of Tractor Supply to see if it fit my truck and realizing, I didn't pay for it."

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How much did he have to drink that night?

"has been at UVA for 38 years"

That right there explains all of this. It only takes a couple of semesters for your typical UVa student to not know how to act in public beyond the confines of the "grounds" and the corner.

Absent minded professor. Not guilty. Big whoop. Are there not real stories to cover like the confederacy celebration, the over charging by overly aggressive ADAs. Maybe Steve Deaton is on to something, too much unecsessary felony charging out of Chapmans office. While you are at how about a story on the disproportionate felony charging by race?

It's the UVA id. Get out of jail free card. If this had been anyone else the outcome would have been different.

Let's not forget that judge Downer is a UVA grad and a UVA law grad. Killeen is also a UVA law grad.

The big UVA family looking out for one another.

Some reason I read this article in Tony Kornheiser voice.


All UVA related folk dodge bullets. It's case after case. There's never enough proof bla bla bla. Alston's victim stabbed himself, the mall child abductor was off his meds, etc.

What ever happened to innocent until proven guilty? How about innocent after found innocent. It sounds like he's guilty according to you because he works at uva. Some of uva profs have been kicked out for doing things like absconding with funds, etc. huegly or whatever his name was got convicted. I think uva has a lot of issues but if it wasn't here you would all be living in FarmVille. So everyone who works at uva is guilty before and after being proven innocent? Get real.stop the hating. The video tape completely exonerated him. A slightly drunk absent minded professor forgets to return a bag he found, film at 11. The media in this town need some investigation themselves.

So why wouldn't the purse owner press charges? Why did it have to be reduced? Maybe the judge made that t comment about very very suspicious to save face for an ACA who totally blew it. Maybe theres a conspiracy between the judge and ACA, because according to you there is a conspiracy behind every tree. The police didnt even want to charge him. Why would rosa Atkins who is not part of your uva cabal come down and testify for him?

I get it some if you have had negative experiences with him and don't like him. Some of you just hate uva, but ge had his trial and was found innocent. End of story except you still have personal axes to grind and the hook encourages that, sad for journalism.

The hook and its acolytes here just lke scandal even where there is none. As for race baiting, why don't you read recent reports that show disproportionate treatment of blacks in cville criminal justice system. It's just be facts. Why doesn't the hook do a story on that? Maybe the ACA went after Bull to make get racial stats look better. What better way to respond to charges that they go after minorities disproportionately than by saying, "looky here we charged a white professor and made sure it was very public."

The hooks article here takes a not guilty finding and scandalized it needlessly to pander to town gown hostility. There are lots of other news that need attention and this story is a waste of space.

Why is it that when someone on these blogs writes something counter to the scandal narrative you jump on the accusations that it is bull himself writing . I assure you it's not. It's just someone who when the villagers get their torches out, stands back and says maybe Frankenstein is not the monster our petty and fearful minds have created.

America is about innocent until proven guilty, not, guilty after proven not guilty. What if it were you and you were falsely accused, how would you feel. The judge threw it out and went through some political theater to save face for a system that just wasted a lot if the tax payers money on a case that should have never been prosecuted.

Vote for Steve Deaton for commonwealth attorney. He will change the over charging mentality down there. Then ther won't be so many felons who need their rights restored on the other end.

Career is over, regardless.

How much did he spend to dodge this bullet? 30 to 40K?


Go ask the Commonwealth's attorney how much they spent on this case.

But your point is well taken, even the innocent must have resources to survive the justice system. Can you imagine if he had a public defender who didn't care about his case. This is probably why our jails are so full of innocent poor people.

I don't think any reasonable person would leave a business with property that isn't theirs without asking permission.


Precisely. As Judge Downer said, "very, very suspicious."

Speaking of unreason, would a reasonable person continue to attack the attorneys for doing their jobs? The Commonwealth's Attorney simply spent salaries that would have been spent regardless of whether or not Bull lacked reason in this incident. The police and the ADA's didn't pick on Bull, just as they don't pick on anyone else who doesn't (allegedly) break the law. They simply do what's before them. If you don't want to be before them, don't (allegedly) break the law.

This whole innocent-poor-people, disproportionate-felony-charging-by-race, and come-on-Hook-cover-some-real-news shtick is completely missing the mark. People (of any color and any net worth) who are behaving themselves do not get arrested. Any time a professor gets arrested, it is real news.

And here's some more real news. This will take a very long time to go away.

Fortunately for Bull, he was found not guilty. Unfortunately for Bull, he's got to spend the rest of his career trying to live this one down.

Anyone who knows anything about the criminal justice system knows there is an incredible amount of discertion involved when it comes to arrests and charging and prosecuting, and bias. Have you ever heard of driving while black? They should have been spending those salaries on real crimes, like the Dumler-like crimes. If Dumler was Latino he probley would not have gotten to do weekend time. Hugeley would probably gotten life.Or thewy could spend some of that salary looking at their own bias in charging.

As to "This whole innocent-poor-people, disproportionate-felony-charging-by-race, and come-on-Hook-cover-some-real-news shtick is completely missing the mark. People (of any color and any net worth) who are behaving themselves do not get arrested. Any time a professor gets arrested, it is real news."

You are right any time a professor gets arrested its news, just ask Louis Gates a black professor at Harvard who was arrested at his home for doing nothing but being black. He was behavinghimself and got arrested for being black : Harvard Professor Jailed; Officer Is Accused of Bias,

Get out of the white privleged fantasy world where there is no bias in the criminal justice system.

So it seems that black people who are behaving themselves do get arrested, and so it appears this can happen to any professor or person because of the discretion of police and prosecutors. In Bull's case he is just an absent minded goofy lost soul academic, slightly tipsy guy who had good intentions but bad judgement. Get off his back, he was found innocent in a court of law. Again the "very very suspicious" comment was overruled by a lot of other evidence that you know nothng about because you were not in the court room, just in your cyber witch hunt room. That comment was political theater for "what a waste of time and money but we don't want te public to think you screwed up"

My point was the CA could have been using those salaries to be going after real criminals, not absent mnded professors. They have a lot of discretion in deciding how to charge people. Steve Deaton is running on the platform that Chapman's office chooses to make mountains out of molehills a lot.They charge felonies when they could be misdemeanors. Misdemeanors when there is nothing there. Deaton argues that small marijuana should be charged as a D &D and tickets not misdemeanors. They clog up our jails unnecessarily. .

It would be nice to see the ACA apoligize to Bull and move on.

Prediction: this goes away in a day, Bull goes back to business a little more attentive and learns his lesson that "no good deed goes unpunished" and thinks twice before doing something nice for someone.

Not guilty yall gotsta feel me!

Interesting. When I worked with him, Bull was famous for saying, "No good deed goes unpunished."

That's what's "very, very suspicious" about all of this to those of us who know him best. He wasn't in the habit of helping people.

And he was not found innocent. He was found not guilty, again, with the judge qualifying that the circumstances were "very, very suspicious." Big, big difference.

I wouldn't advise any breath-holding waiting for that apology, or waiting for any opinions to change about Bull.

That would be unreasonable.

I have a really hard time believing that the judge, or anyone else, would have described him as being a "lost soul" if he had been black.

And seriously, taking someone's computer and wallet is the equivalent of taking a "nut" out of Tractor Supply?

In between "not innocent" and "guilty" is the realm of "beyond a reasonable doubt."

It's a conspicuous feature of our legal system that tens of thousands of people are NOT convicted every year, even though their circumstances are, like the judge said "very, very suspicious."

In this country, it's incredibly rare for someone who is factually innocent to be convicted of a crime. It's better to let all of these "very, very suspicious" people walk free for the time being.

It's difficult for police, prosecutors and even judges to watch this happen every day, but it's been my experience that sooner or later they'll end up in court again.

Shows how the expense of good lawyering is worth it. Lawrence was able to sell a load of Bull,

He couldn't be convicted beyond a shadow of a doubt so he walks free, thanks to his position, his legal representation, his professional supporters, and yes, his race. No doubt he was given the benefit of the doubt.


Nothing of the sort. It's the UVA influence. Had this been anyone else without a UVA id it would have been theft. How does a full grown man walk out of a bar with a found handbag/purse by accident? Just like the child abductor who was off his meds and happened to be a UVA employee.

Common folks, everyone who has lived in Cville for a while knows that what UVA wants UVA gets. UVA is above the law.

If a person is this much of an embarrassment to UVa inside the school and out in the community why are they still there? Can someone who tried to abduct a child still be there too? This seems really bad for UVa.

This is actually not so bad for UVA Nobody was killed. Always a plus considering the violent student body. Glad to hear that dude did not steal the purse. He just took it.

"Killeen is also a UVA law grad."

"Experience" is the poster child for subjective validation and illogic. Had Killeen wanted to let him off, she would have simply noted that the 'victim' didn't want to press charges and dropped the case. Instead, she must have wanted to waste months pressing charges to put up a good show?

Why so many people have sticks up their craws over UVa, I have no idea.

The Court of Public Opinion is where this case was lost.

@G Luv

Quite logical actually. My point is it's all an orchestrated act for public consumption, Killeen being an actor in that theater.
Sorry to have offended your crappy and corrupt alma mater.
Subjective: The truth hurts.

"State a moral case to a ploughman and a professor. The former will decide it as well, and often better than the latter, because he has not been led astray by artificial rules." - Thomas Jefferson

I graduated from UVA and agree with Thomas Jefferson 100%, most of the professors (Bull certainly being one of them) were led astray and in an alternative universe. I will say that I appreciated the good ones very much though, but it's too bad that there are not more of them. Just think, this man commands a huge salary and teaches our teachers. Enough said.

I disagree with all of the UVa-paranoia/envy/bashing. This is just a lot of resentment.

It is certainly true that being a late-middle-aged white male "professional" goes a heck of a long way to being a get-out-of-jail-free card. I have to agree: if he was a younger black male, he would not have gotten a pass like this - the burden of proof would have been on him, and not on the prosecutor. It is supposed to be on the prosecutor. It's not some UVa good-old-boy network that makes him a teflon guy, it's mostly being white, older and "established". Non UVa people around here who fit that description also get off lightly, a lot.

It's nice to finally hear a description of what was on the tape. There really is no excuse for not simply asking the woman if the purse was hers or, if he really didn't think it was hers, turning it in to the restaurant staff.

I know him only peripherally, so I can't speak as authoritatively as someone who is purportedly a former student of his, but the comments of that poster definitely ring true.

I know that his private life is not great, and my WAG is that this guy is desperate for a thrill. Perhaps the purse nabbing started as a way of getting to 'meet' the woman involved, and having successfully picked it up and - with seeming impunity - carried it off across the bar, he then decided to carry it all the way out. Just for the thrill. I think of the Celebrities who turn to shoplifting, not for the material gain, but for the transgressive thrill...which is kind of what you'd expect from a desperate "lost soul".

"...Killeen being an actor in that theater."

That's ludicrous at face value.

I'm sorry whatever your alma mater is couldn't teach you to think.

And why would it hurt me to know that UVa is a good-ole boys club for white males? I'd love a get out of jail free card.

@G-Luv - Enjoy your UVA ride whilst it lasts. You'll be the first to deny your ties when they get done a la Penn State.

I just love all the excuses made for UVA criminals. A poor unconnected criminal who steals and justifies it by claiming it's his only option is judged differently to a professor who does it for thrills. Common people, this is what con men do all the time. It's for the frill of cheating someone out of their money. Perhaps Marshall can employ this new strategy to find himself a date. You UVA lot never cease to amaze me. The world is stupid except for all those who went to UVA. Harvard eat your heart out!

Or the story that he told the judge, which is what convinced the judge, that he had lost something at Blue Moon before himself, and someone had returned it to him, as the truth. Occums razor. Simplest explanation is the right one, not all the personal axe grinding uva bashing that many above are wallowing in. I know him and while he is not the easiest guy to work with, and may be other things , he is no thief, grand or petty. This is why a non uva African-american person, superintendent of CCS, testified on his behalf. I do agree if he were not white and guilty he would have gotten different treatment in Charlottesville. But he wasn't guilty according to the judge.

For whatever reason the commonwealth attorney lost her judgement when exercising prosecutorial discretion. This was a waste of time and money. They can go back to using that discretion to keeping the felony to prison system running. This city and state charges way to many people with felonies when they don't have to.

There's plenty to see here. While what he did may have been defensible in court this time, it's certainly indefensible for a normal, rational person ever to pull something like this. Since you know him, could you suggest that he get psychiatric help? Seems long overdue.

How about this simple explanation: He lifted the purse because he's always gotten away with everything else, which turned out to be true here as well.

I'm sure CCS is tethered to Bull's funding in some way, and this would have disappeared if he'd been found guilty. You think the NSF would continue to fund someone who's a convicted thief? They wouldn't be happy if they knew about this episode, no doubt.