Kansas man pleads guilty to theft of Jackie Robinson statue

Ricky Alderete, 45, arrested after a Jackie Robinson statue went missing from a Wichita, Kansas, youth baseball league in January, pleaded guilty Thursday to theft and other charges.

Alderete could face more than 19 years behind bars when he's sentenced on July 1, the district attorney's office told ESPN.

In addition to theft, he will be sentenced for aggravated burglary, aggravated criminal damage to property, interference with law enforcement, criminal damage to property, making a false writing and identity theft. The crimes are related to the theft, as well as his identification and arrest, the district attorney's office said.

The prosecutor's office also said that Alderete will be forced to pay $41,500 to League 42, the youth baseball outfit named after the Brooklyn Dodgers legend.

"We're glad that this particular chapter has been put to rest," Bob Lutz, the executive director of League 42, told ESPN on Friday. "I'm glad that someone has been held accountable for this statue theft."

"I hope that Mr. Alderete has learned from this experience. I hope that he has learned that what he and his accomplices did was harmful to a lot of people, including kids, and hopefully he'll do better."

Police said they don't believe the crime to be racially motivated, based on what they know at this time.

There have been no more arrests connected to the case, but, using surveillance video, police said there were at least two other individuals present when the statue was cut, leaving the bronze replicas of Robinson's cleats behind, and stolen from Wichita's McAdams Park, where League 42 plays its games. Parts of the statue were later found, charred from a fire, in another park 7 miles away.

A police affidavit obtained by ESPN said that, days after the arrest, Alderete ran from police and entered a man's home. The other man eventually escaped and got in touch with police, leading to Alderete's arrest.

A GoFundMe page set up by the league raised nearly $200,000 before the fundraising link was closed Feb. 5, less than two weeks from when the statue went missing. Lutz estimated that League 42 received between $500,000 and $600,000 in total.

MLB has pledged to pay for the statue to be rebuilt, as a coordinated effort among clubs. Lutz said League 42 has received a $100,000 check from MLB for the new statue, as well as security and lighting around it.

League 42 had its opening day, without the statue in place, on Jackie Robinson Day in April. The new statue is expected to be unveiled in August.

Police believe the theft was "motivated by the financial gain of scrapping common metal."

"I'm sorry for him," David Robinson, Jackie Robinson's son, said of Alderete to ESPN. "I'm sorry for the troubles of his life. His solution to steal a sculpture of a man of the stature of Jackie Robinson, it's a further unfortunate choice and circumstance of his own making.

"But my basic feeling is that I'm sorry for the man and his position in life. I understand he has pleaded guilty. I wish he takes society's punishment in the best way possible and from there can go on to improve his life."

ESPN's William Weinbaum contributed to this report.