Pennsylvania court ensures that good deed goes unpunished

Record expunged for librarian arrested after selling back copies of National Geographic to buy school computers.

Defendant (whose name I’m withholding in this entry in the event anyone does an Internet search for his name someday), a 24-year-old school librarian, rescued some of his library’s back issues of National Geographic from the trash can and sold them on eBay. He used the proceeds from the sale, along with $300 of his own money, to buy six computers for the school. Despite these generous and creative efforts, the school system complained to the district attorney’s office, and defendant was arrested for library theft.

In return for defendant resigning his position as librarian, the district attorney’s office withdrew the charges. Defendant then filed a motion to have the record of his arrest expunged. After the trial court denied the motion, defendant sought review. On appeal, the court held that the trial court applied the wrong burden of proof on the question of expungement, and that the prosecution failed to show why the arrest record should not be expunged.

The appellate court applied the four factors set out in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court case of Commonwealth v. Wexler, 431 A.2d 877 (Pa. 1981), to determine that the trial court abused its discretion in not ordering the arrest record expunged. The court commented on defendant’s motives: “Although perhaps hasty and not ‘cleared’ sufficiently through the proper channels, we believe [defendant's] actions demonstrate the creativity and altruism so vital to our public schools.”

Commonwealth v. [___________], — A.2d —, 2005 WL 3196556 (Pa.Super., November 30, 2005).