gaveldecision.jpgA San Francisco man accused of purloining dozens of pieces of artwork worth hundreds of thousands of dollars from local galleries agreed to a plea deal in court today that will have him serve a year in county jail, a district attorney’s office spokesman said.

Terry Helbing, 53, was arrested on June 1 after he allegedly stole 40 paintings and prints worth $15,000 from the San Francisco Botanical Garden’s horticulture library.

When police went to Helbing’s Tenderloin residential hotel room in the 400 block of Ellis Street, they found a trove of other artwork, mostly paintings, believed to have been stolen from 11 other galleries since 2004, according to prosecutors. The items included a skull belonging to the California Academy of Sciences.

Helbing had been awaiting trial in San Francisco Superior Court on 28 felony counts, but according to district attorney’s office spokesman Seth Steward, he agreed to plead guilty today to two counts of burglary and one count of receiving stolen property.

Under the terms of the deal, Helbing faces probation and a year in county jail, but will receive credit for the time he has already served, Steward said.

He’ll also receive a court order to stay away from the galleries, Steward said.

At a preliminary hearing in August, Helbing’s attorney claimed his client had mental health issues and “simply has good taste.”

Ari Burack, Bay City News

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