HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) — Lawyers for a New Orleans Confederate history museum say they're hoping for a speedy resolution in a dispute with an Alabama man over ownership of a Confederate Army captain's jacket.
Attorneys for Memorial Hall Museum, Inc., which operates the Confederate Memorial Hall Museum, filed documents in U.S. District Court on Thursday saying Civil War veteran William Lyman donated his jacket to the organization in 1891. The documents also state that Lyman was an original board member.
Museum officials have said the jacket was stolen sometime before November 1990 and had been included in the museum's inventory and records.
Joe Fitzgerald of Huntsville, Alabama, has said he paid $44,500 for Lyman's jacket during a 2009 convention in Nashville and was contacted about it in 2016 by museum representatives.
Memorial Hall officials said they sent a former FBI agent to visit Fitzgerald in Alabama on their behalf to ask him to return the jacket, which was tailored out of homemade jeans by a Highland County, Virginia woman. Museum President Keith Cangelosi said in an affidavit that the jacket was sent to Lyman when he was commanding a company of Virginia infantry soldiers and is worth more than $75,000.
Fitzgerald had asked a judge to declare him sole owner of the jacket and said in his complaint that it had at least two previous owners when he bought it.
Attorney Eades Hogue said Monday that he and Fitzgerald's attorneys have been in discussions and hope for a satisfactory resolution. Fitzgerald's attorneys had said their client hadn't been shown documentation proving that the museum ever owned the jacket until the court filing last week.
"They've now shown us — I wish it hadn't gotten to this point — but they've now shown us the documentation so I've been in discussion with them and my client about how we can resolve this," Fitzgerald's attorney Bartley Loftin said. "It looks like my client may very well donate the coat back to the museum. He's always wanted to do the right thing."
Loftin said it's unclear if Fitzgerald will be able to recoup any of the money he spent on the jacket.