The relevant facts and procedural history of this case are as follows. Appellant, a 24-year-old with a degree in Library Science, was employed as a high school librarian in the Susquenita School District for the 2003-2004 school year. In late July or August 2003, Appellant informed his “mentor” in the school district of an idea he had conceived to sell old issues of National Geographic magazine as a way to raise money to purchase computer equipment for the school library. The magazines belonged to the library and had been consigned to the trash. Appellant’s mentor told him she thought the idea was “creative,” and did not warn him against pursing it. Appellant pursued his plan and sold the magazines on the internet auction site eBay, raising approximately $ 325.00. Appellant then contributed $ 300.00 of his own money and used the total sum to purchase six used computers, also through eBay. Then, in accordance with his plan, he installed the computers at the school library, where they remain in use to this day.
Let’s recap: Librarian (in what was probably his first job) takes TRASH and turns it into $325. He then (nearly)doubles that amount w/ a contribution of his own (out of his probably inadequate salary). He then takes the whole amount and buys computers, which he places in the school library. He in no way profits himself; in fact, he’s at a net loss.
And what does he get for his trouble? A pat on the back? Oh, no. He gets CHARGED WITH THEFT.
On December 4, 2003, the school district made a complaint to the district attorney’s office, as a result of which Appellant was charged with library theft n2 and misapplication of entrusted property and property of government or financial institutions. n3 In court for what was to be his preliminary hearing, Appellant agreed to resign as school librarian in consideration of the District Attorney dropping the charges. Accordingly, the charges were withdrawn on January 9, 2004, and Appellant filed a motion to expunge his arrest record on March 17, 2004. At a hearing on the motion, Appellant testified to the above facts and the District Attorney offered a purely statutory argument as to why Appellant’s record should not be wiped clean. The hearing court denied both Appellant’s motion and a subsequently-filed motion to modify the court’s order. This appeal followed…
Can you imagine? What were they (the school district) thinking? I especially like the part of how they’re still using the computers that he purchased partly w/ the money generated from the “stolen” magazines. Talk about insult to injury. Then the court refuses to remove the arrest from his record, thus killing his career before it’s even started–all because he did something that ADDED VALUE TO HIS SCHOOL LIBRARY.
Fortunately, the appeals court had more sense.
…the arrest is having deleterious effects right now, as evidenced by Appellant’s testimony that he has not been able to obtain work as a school librarian or even secure an interview for same since the arrest.
…it is apparent to this Court that the Commonwealth did not carry its burden of proof in this matter. Further, as we noted above, the burden of proof appears to have been totally misplaced. As common sense and case law demand, we hold that these errors constitute an abuse of discretion. Although perhaps hasty and not “cleared” sufficiently through the proper channels, we believe Appellant’s actions demonstrate the creativity and altruism so vital to our public schools. It is our desire that this case not reinforce the adage “No good deed goes unpunished.” Accordingly, we reverse the order denying Appellant’s motion to expunge and remand for proceedings consistent with this opinion.