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Psychiatric evaluation of Wirs ordered: self-proclaimed publisher pleads guilty to second bad check charge; freed after 21 days in jail, he is ordered to make restitution.

Psychiatric evaluation of Wirs ordered

Self-proclaimed publisher pleads guilty to second bad check charge; freed after 21 days in jail, he is ordered to make restitution

Peter Wirs -- a self-proclaimed publisher who once said he resented his image as "an eccentric sideshow in the newspaper industry" -- was freed from York County Jail in Pennsylvania after pleading guilty to a second bad check charge March 28.

In a plea bargain with the York County district attorney, Wirs was sentenced to 21 days in prison -- the time he had served since being jailed March 7 -- and 23 months of probation.

Senior Judge James Buckingham also ordered Wirs to make restitution of $4,911 to George Rayburn, a Magnolia, Ark., charter pilot who had flown Wirs from Pennsylvania to Texas.

Wirs admitted in court that, when he had given Rayburn a check for the flight, he had no money in the bank and had committed a crime, Jerry L. Gleason reported in the Harrisburg Patriot-News.

As part of the plea, Wirs also was ordered to undergo "psychiatric and/or psychological evaluation."

When Wirs came to York in October 1989, he had earlier raised eyebrows with his announcement that he would buy troubled United Press International. That venture failed when it became clear he had no capital and that he was claiming spurious connections with prominent newspaper figures.

In York, Wirs first said he would buy the York Daily Record to prevent a planned joint operating agreement with the rival York Dispatch.

When that JOA was approved in February 1990, Wirs then proclaimed that he would create two more competing dailies, the York Independent and the York Post.

Those efforts to start the papers were the beginnings of his legal troubles.

Wirs ordered an elaborate subscription solicitation mailing from Comprint, a Gaithersburg, Md., printer, but paid for the 80,000 copies with a worthless $25,000 check.

Wirs was found guilty of passing a bad check in that case in early March. He faces sentencing May 6.

Wirs had previously been in court to pay restitution in a few cases of people who actually had sent him money for newspaper subscriptions.

His charter flight was in pursuit of another plan to create two daily newspapers and a nationwide daily media business journal from two existing weeklies, with combined circulation of about 13,000, in the town of Carthage, Texas.

In his guilty plea on the charter flight bad check charge, Wirs told the court he would be staying with a family in Philadelphia. His probation was transferred to Philadelphia County.

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Title Annotation:Peter Wirs
Author:Fitzgerald, Mark
Publication:Editor & Publisher
Date:Apr 6, 1991
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