DOYLESTOWN, Pa. - Convicted sex felon and former Penn student Kurt Mitman had his academic-release privileges terminated Friday and will not be able to return to campus until at least September.
University officials discovered last month that Mitman - a first-year Economics graduate student who is serving a jail sentence on child-molestation charges - was commuting to class from a Bucks County prison for up to 12 hours a day as part of an academic-release program.
In a hearing Friday, Bucks County Court Judge Theodore Fritsch suspended Mitman's academic release after ordering the Men's Community Corrections Center, at a hearing Jan. 17, to develop a proposal that would include more rigorous restrictions.
The Corrections Center eventually introduced a new proposal that included provisions for an electronic-landline-based phone to be placed in Mitman's office in the McNeil Building at Penn.
But Fritsch said he decided to reject the proposal on the basis that it was too lenient, making few or no changes to the academic privileges Mitman had enjoyed prior to his suspension.
He added that he had been unaware of Mitman's academic-release privileges prior to the Jan. 17 hearing, and that Mitman only benefited himself and not the community by studying at Penn.
"Going to school is not the same thing as working or community service," Fritsch said. Mitman "is merely furthering his own studies."
Richard Fink, Mitman's lawyer, said during the hearing that substantially greater restrictions were unnecessary due to the student's low level of interaction with other people.
"Mitman's only taking three courses," Fink said, adding that Mitman's schedule at Penn was limited to regular classes, recitations and occasional workshops hosted by the Economics department.
But Jennifer Schorn, chief of special investigations for the Bucks County district attorney, said Penn's proposal - which included an electronic-monitoring bracelet Mitman would have had to wear on his ankle - did not coincide with that of the Corrections Center, and the University Police Department had not agreed to any proposal.
Schorn added that it is inappropriate for a felony-one sex offender to be released while incarcerated.
Fink disagreed, citing testimony by Mitman's therapist that Mitman was unlikely to reoffend.
"The court has already noted in the last hearing that he is a minimal risk," Fink said.
He added that releasing Mitman would allow him to become a "meaningful contributor to society."
"He's paid his debt," Fink said.
Fink dismissed Schorn's suggestion that Mitman should not be released due to his felony status by saying that Schorn was ignorant of Mitman's chances for rehabilitation.
By denying Mitman the opportunity for rehabilitation, Fink said, the courts would be "marching double-time back into the 16th century."
Fink said after the hearing that he doubted an appeal would be filed, adding that both Mitman and his parents likely want to stay out of the spotlight.
The basis of the judge's decision, Fink said, was likely the "notoriety" of the case, which has received press coverage from across the Northeast.
University spokeswoman Lori Doyle has said the University had not taken a stance on Mitman's academic-release privileges and would comply with any decision that the court made.
Doyle added that Mitman would be able to reapply to the graduate program when he is released from jail.
He is eligible for parole Sept. 16.Comments powered by Disqus
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