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In re Application of V.S. for Expungement of Records of Conviction

Decided: May 26, 1992.

IN THE MATTER OF THE APPLICATION OF V.S. FOR EXPUNGEMENT OF RECORDS OF CONVICTION


Harris, J.s.c.

Harris

HARRIS, J.S.C.

BACKGROUND

The question decided in this action is whether a tenured guidance counsellor in a public school system is entitled to expungement of the records of his conviction for child abuse committed in 1973. The Bergen County Prosecutor contends that N.J.S.A. 2C:52-14(b), coupled with N.J.S.A. 18A:6-7.1, evinces a public policy against expungement of convictions for child abuse. The petitioner argues that N.J.S.A. 2C:52-2 does not prohibit the expungement of convictions for child abuse, and that the Prosecutor has failed to sustain the burden of demonstrating that the availability of the records outweighs the desirability of having him freed from any disabilities of the conviction. I conclude that the Prosecutor has failed to demonstrate

a basis to deny the expungement, and petitioner is entitled to the relief sought.

FINDINGS OF FACT

In 1973 petitioner was employed as a counsellor at the Bergen County Children's Shelter where he was responsible for the care and custody of children between the ages of thirteen and sixteen. On a single night he and another employee verbally harassed, hazed, and inflicted corporal punishment on eleven children at the Shelter during a vain attempt to discover who had stolen the keys to a van.

Petitioner expressed genuine remorse and regret over the incident. He explained that his behavior was a terrible mistake; it was authority run amok in an overzealous attempt to follow orders from a superior officer. Petitioner described his behavior as irrational.

Although none of the children suffered permanent injuries, petitioner was indicted for child abuse, conspiracy, and misconduct in office. After a jury trial determined petitioner's guilt on the child abuse and conspiracy counts and acquitted him of the misconduct in office offense, petitioner was sentenced to a suspended one year term, probation of three years, fine of $500.00, and a special condition of probation that he not be employed in any capacity which required the custody or control of children in public institutions. Petitioner successfully completed his probationary sentence, during which he was employed as a drug rehabilitation counsellor for adults. Later, between 1979 and 1983 he was employed by an adult education program as a teacher.

In 1983 he was hired by a public school system as a guidance counsellor. In 1985 he was granted tenure. He has been continuously employed at a high school since 1983. Between 1986 and 1991 he served as the junior varsity and varsity baseball coach.

Petitioner has led a law abiding life for the last nineteen years. In fact, since 1983, he has been ...


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