12/05/2012 10:45 am ET

Brown University Sword Lawsuit Delayed

Brown University is yearning to get into the courtroom to try and recover a long-lost sword that once belonged to the Rhode Island school. But a change in attorneys for the defendants in the case, Donald and Toni Tharpe, has delayed the trial to 2013.

Colonel Rush Hawkins, of the Union army, donated a Civil War-era Tiffany & Co. silver presentation sword to the university's Annmary Brown Memorial Collection in 1907. In the 1970s, the sword went missing, only to reemerge on display at the municipal Lee Hall Mansion in Newport News, Va., on loan from the Tharpes, the Brown Daily Herald reports.

Brown first filed a lawsuit against the town of Newport News to uncover the museum's sword source. Once the school was able to identify the Tharpes as the benefactors, Newport News was dismissed in the case, and Brown sued the couple in U.S. District Court in Virginia.

According to court documents, the Tharpes purchased the sword in 1992 from an Illinois antiques dealer for $32,000. It is now valued at $750,000.

UPI reports the Tharpes' original counsel, Alan Silber, asked for the suit to be dismissed last year, claiming it was outside the statute of limitations and Brown couldn't prove its ownership anyway.

But the Daily Herald reports Brown still has the sword's matching presentation box.

Silber left the case in October, however, and David Fudala now represents the Tharpes. After the couple requested several continuances, a trial over the sword is set for February 2013.

"The change in defense attorneys hasn't affected Brown's legal strategy at all," Beverly Ledbetter, Brown vice president and general counsel, told the Daily Herald. "Our legal strategy is simple: We own it; it was stolen; we want it back."