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Wirs sentenced to time served.

Peter Wirs was scheduled to be released from jail Sept. 30 after a county judge sentenced him to four to 23 months on a $25,000 bad check charge arising from his fanciful efforts to publish two daily newspapers in York, Pa.

York County President Judge Joseph E. Erb approved Wirs release since the self-proclaimed publisher has been held in prison -- first in New York City's Rikers Island and later in York County Jail -- since Feb. 10.

Erb ordered Wirs to pay court costs and $25,000 in restitution to the Gaithersburg, Md., printer who produced 80,000 sets of an elaborate subscription offer for Wirs' two non-existent York dailies.

The Sept. 28 sentencing -- as reported by Jerry L. Gleason, a staff writer in the York bureau of the Harrisburg Patriot-News -- had all the earmarks of Wirs' misadventures in publishing.

Wirs' public defender told the judge that Wirs "has no assets at all," reported Gleason. Wirs, however, quickly interjected that his Poor Richards Corp. "just had its first year of profitability," a period when Wirs was either in jail or being sought on a fugitive warrant.

"I have full confidence retribution will be made," Wirs said.

Appearing in the court bearded and using crutches, the 37-year-old Wirs asked that supervision of his 19 months of probation be transferred to New York City. The request was approved.

Gleason reported that Wits had not obtained a psychiatric evaluation as ordered in a previous conviction for bad checks (E&P, April 6, 1991).

Wirs also refused to participate in a psychiatric evaluation during his confinement in York. He said his refusal was based on the advice of his "federal public defender."

Wirs had vigorously -- and characteristically -- fought extradition to Pennsylvania after his February arrest in New York by filing a voluminous, 106-page, habeous corpus writ. For equally obscure reasons, Wirs had tried to delay his sentencing, saying that he wanted to be represented by his "New York attorney."

At the beginning of the Sept. 28 sentencing hearing, Wirs repeated the argument, but Judge Erb decided to go ahead with a county public defender representing Wirs.

Wirs did not indicate where he would live in the New York City area. Since 1988 Wirs periodically captured newspaper industry attention with media schemes that seemed to grow ever more disconnected from reality.

He first vowed to buy United Press International and triple its size.

When he came to York in late 1989, he said he wanted to buy the York Daily Record to prevent a planned joint operating agreement with the competing York Dispatch. When the JOA was given government approval in 1990, Wirs then launched plans for two new competing dailies, giving the tiny York market four newspapers.

Even as the York enterprise was collapsing amid accusations of bad checks, bad debts and bad faith, Wirs was flying to the small town of Carthage, Texas, to create two daily newspapers and a nationwide media industry trade journal from two weeklies with a combined circulation of 13,000.

Wirs was later convicted of passing a bad check for that charter flight.

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Title Annotation:would-be newspaper pulisher Peter Wirs
Author:Fitzgerald, Mark
Publication:Editor & Publisher
Date:Oct 3, 1992
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