A 25-year-old convicted child molester has been attending graduate classes unsupervised at the University of Pennsylvania, where he has an office, while still serving his felony sentence in a Bucks County prison.
The victim's mother had not been notified, as she had requested in writing, that Kurt E. Mitman of McLean, Va., had been freed for up to 12 hours a day, Mondays through Fridays, since July, driving his own car to and from the jail in an hour-and-a-half commute.
A Bucks County judge, after a court hearing yesterday, suspended Mitman's participation in the county's academic release program.
Judge C. Theodore Fritsch Jr. then gave the county Men's Community Corrections Center 10 days to draft a new release proposal, in consultation with the university, that would include provisions for monitoring the defendant while on campus and safeguards to protect citizens.
Diane Gibbons, Bucks County district attorney, said last night that her office would oppose letting Mitman out before he serves his time. "I have always and will always oppose release of sex offenders to any prerelease program, period. The nature of their conviction eliminates them."
The university learned just in the last week of Mitman's guilty plea in March 2005 to a charge of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a 14-year-old boy. Mitman and his academic advisers had a previously scheduled meeting for today. After learning of Fritsch's decision, Penn canceled the meeting.
"No university would want that person on their campus," Gibbons said. "No parent would want their children there."
Jennifer Schorn, chief of special victims for the Bucks district attorney, said corrections officials had not notified her office, either, of the release of the defendant, who had yet to complete the minimum phase of his 21/2-to-5-year sentence. She requested the hearing to challenge the corrections officials' decision.
Schorn said she had to be told by the victim's mother, who discovered Mitman was attending classes at Penn while searching the state's Megan's Law Web site early last month.
Guy Waller, supervisor of the corrections center, acknowledged in testimony that he was aware the victim's mother had enrolled in the victim-notification program and that it was an error not to have alerted her.
Waller also testified that Mitman's supervising officer had been monitoring his whereabouts and had contacted university police to let them know that Mitman was on campus and about his offense.
However, subsequent testimony showed that the monitoring consisted of calling Mitman on his cell phone or Mitman's calling in to report his whereabouts - "self-reporting," as Schorn dismissively characterized it. Capt. Joe Fischer of the university police said the first call from the county on Mitman came Tuesday, almost six months after Mitman began classes.
Mitman was charged with assaulting the 14-year-old in July 2004 while the boy was staying with his grandparents at their home in Warminster Township. Mitman met the boy at a three-week summer camp for gifted students at Lafayette College in Easton. Mitman was a residential assistant; the youth was a camper.
Citing psychological testimony, Richard Fine, Mitman's attorney, said he was a "very, very low risk" for recidivism and was "just working to become a productive member of society." Mitman won a prestigious Marshall Scholarship to study physics at Oxford University in England upon graduation from the University of Virginia in 2004.
Mitman testified he had not told Penn officials of his criminal record when he applied in December 2005, nor when he met with them after his acceptance.
"If he was earnest in his intention to better himself," Schorn argued before the judge, "he would have been candid."
Schorn said after the hearing that corrections officials had not considered the impact on the victim and his family. She said in such cases, the "defendant's rights are outweighed by the community's rights."
The victim's mother noted that if Mitman is eventually granted parole - he'll be eligible in September - he would be monitored more closely then than now, "a certified sex offender running freely though three counties without anyone being told."