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After the recent dismissal of charges against Wharton sophomore Justin Wynter due to lack of evidence, questions remained about the amount of evidence that is necessary to arrest a student.

The judge found that Wynter did not act with any malicious intent, and as a result, the charges were dismissed for lack of evidence.

The University was not in charge of the original investigation.

Wynter had originally been charged with burglary, criminal trespass, indecent assault, simple assault, reckless endangerment of another person, unlawful restraint and false imprisonment.

"A hearing went forward, the complainant testified, the judge heard all her testimony," Ari Moldovsky, Wynter's attorney said. "The evidence didn't equate to any criminal activity."

The latest on this story: Questions arise from dismissal of charges (Dec 08, 2003) Charges dismissed for Wharton sophomore (Dec 05, 2003)
David Rudovsky, a professor at the Law School, explained that without a lot of specifics on what exactly happened in the courtroom, it is difficult to know whether the dismissal of these charges is unusual or not.

"Assuming they couldn't prove an essential element of the crime, then the case has to be dismissed," Rudovsky said.

"When you say lack of evidence, that's the procedural term," Moldovsky said, explaining that a "lack of evidence" can mean many things.

"Intent is one of the things that they had to show, and that was part of what was lacking in the lack of evidence," he added.

Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush explained that though there are no different procedures for handling crimes allegedly committed by University affiliates or other persons not affiliated with Penn, there are differences in who handles the investigations of various criminal acts.

"There is no difference in how the arrest procedures go for a student versus a non-student. It is all part of the criminal justice procedures," Rush said.

Still, Rush explained that many factors might have differentiated the investigation and policy between the Wynter case and the case of five Penn students who were arrested last fall for allegedly pouring motor oil on a visiting Princeton debate team member. The Penn students were eventually charged with assault. The charges against three of the students were dropped outright, while the other two had their criminal records expunged pending a remediation program.

While the investigation of the assault case was handled by the University of Pennsylvania Police Department, the Wynter case was handled by the Philadelphia Police Department, as is standard for murders and sexual crimes.

The Special Victim's Unit's "procedure is to investigate and to arrest via warrant," Rush said. This is contrary to the University performing an investigation, as in last year's assault case.

"For sexual assault crimes, it is a different procedure in that generally, unless it's a felony level [crime], it's processed and arrested via warrant," she said.

Additionally, the difference in length of investigation time before charging someone "has many variables," depending on the time of the arrest and the evidence found during the investigation, Rush explained.

"Investigations have to merit a fact sheet coming into the district attorney" before a person can be charged, Rush said.

Wynter, who will have no criminal record after the dismissal of all charges against him, will return to the University for the spring semester.

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