A convicted sex felon has been enrolled at Penn as a full-time graduate student since September, while still serving his sentence at a Bucks County prison.
First-year Economics graduate student Kurt Mitman had been released from prison for up to 12 hours per weekday since the summer, driving his own car one and a half hours to and from jail for classes, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported yesterday.
Penn spokeswoman Lori Doyle said the University was unaware of Mitman's status when he was accepted to the Economics graduate program in December 2005.
Mitman's privileges were suspended Wednesday by County Judge Theodore Fritsch, who ordered that a new release proposal be coordinated with the University to more closely monitor Mitman's activities on campus.
"We understand that the court has temporarily revoked his academic release, so, for now, he will not be attending classes pending a final decision by the court," Doyle said in a press release.
Interviewed yesterday, Doyle added that Penn's application did not ask for criminal background when Mitman applied.
The school did, however, change its application last year to include such information, Doyle said.
Mitman pled guilty in March 2005 to involuntary deviate sexual-intercourse charges with a 14-year-old boy and was sentenced to two and a half to five years in prison.
He was later permitted to enroll in Bucks County's academic-release program and began attending Penn in September 2006.
Richard Fink, Mitman's attorney, said Mitman had been transferred to a low-security community corrections center before being enrolled in the academic-release program.
"They considered him to be a low risk," Fink said.
He added that "complaints by the victim's mother" likely led the judge to reconsider Mitman's privileges.
The victim's mother was not aware that Mitman had been free for up to 12 hours a day since July 2006 but discovered that he was attending classes at Penn while searching Pennsylvania's Megan's Law Web site - which includes lists of convicted sex offenders - last month, the Inquirer reported.
Mitman met the victim while working as a residential assistant at a summer camp for gifted children. The incident occurred in July 2004 in Warminster Township, where the boy was staying with his grandparents.
Teachers and students who worked with Mitman said they had no idea of his criminal past. Fatih Karahan, who shared an office with Mitman in the McNeil Building at 3718 Locust Walk, first learned of his conviction yesterday and was thrown by the news.
"I'm a bit surprised to see this," Karahan wrote in an e-mail.
Economics graduate program coordinator Kelly Quinn said department staff found out about Mitman's background earlier this week but did not discuss his conviction with students.
"It wasn't my business, so I didn't say anything," Quinn said.
Fink said he didn't think University officials needed to know about Mitman's conviction.
"I don't think he actively misrepresented himself," he said.
With his academic-release-program privileges revoked for two weeks, Mitman's greatest concern is falling behind in his studies, Fink said.
"He's very scared that missing two weeks of lecture and workshop might be enough for him to fail," he said.
Described as a model student by his peers, Mitman received a scholarship to study physics at Oxford University in 2004.
"He was in our study group and was one of the best students I've ever seen," Karahan wrote.
Matt Hoelle, a teaching assistant for one of Mitman's classes, called him "a leader in his peer-study group."
"His enthusiasm and work ethic in the class were second to none," Hoelle said.
Fink said Mitman has always been very involved in the community, even in prison.
"He's performed 500 hours of community service" since coming to prison, he said.
- Staff member Stephen Morse contributed reporting to this story.Comments powered by Disqus
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