Audit: Hundreds wrongly got criminal record for unpaid bills
(Harrisburg) — A Pennsylvania state official says a judge for years misclassified civil complaints about unpaid bills as theft. As a result, hundreds of people have undeserved criminal records.
Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said Thursday a review of the district judge office in Corry, Erie County, found over 800 theft-of-services convictions for offenses that are not crimes under state law.
They include failure to pay fines on overdue library books, bills for plumbing repairs and credit union fees.
The auditor general says then-District Judge Brenda Williams Nichols misclassified cases from 2014 through 2017.
She lost a bid for re-election in 2017.
DePasquale is urging the court system to expunge the records at no cost to those involved.
No phone listing could be found for Nichols, and a message left at a relative’s home seeking her comment was not returned.