Here’s a charge that was harsher on the innocent child than the dead beat dad.

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An elderly man now living in Georgia, who clearly spent some time in York County as a young man, recently filed a petition in Common Pleas Court to expunge his criminal record here. 

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The charge? Neglect to support bastard. The offense date was listed as June 21, 1962. 

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According to the expungement petition, he was sentenced to six months in county prison.

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Why did he want the charge expunged? He simply wrote, “I am 71 years old.” 

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The result: More than 50 years after the crime, his expungement was granted. 

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Senior deputy prosecutor Susan Emmons, took a few seconds out of a hectic pre-trial conference scheduled last week. She had represented the commonwealth at the expungement hearing. 

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Me: What is neglect to support bastard? 

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Emmons: It’s some old child support law. 

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Theresa Gross is the assistant director of the York County Domestic Relations Section, which, among other responsibilities, is responsible for establishing the paternity of children born outside of marriage. 

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Me: What is neglect to support bastard? 

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Gross: That’s what they used to charge them with. That’s before my time. Up until the mid-70’s, it was filed as a criminal action. 

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According to the Pennsylvania County Court Reports on the extradition case of “one Spylios Assimakopulos” who was wanted in Massachusetts in 1919 for “begetting a child,” fornication and bastardy had been on the Commonwealth’s law books since 1860. 

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Harrisburg attorney Guy H. Davies, who wrote the response to Massachusetts’ extradition request, said the commonwealth did not extradite its citizens to address such charges. 

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Neglect to support a bastard remained the law in 1939 when the state penal code was created. 

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In 1953, the state’s judicial districts were required to establish a Domestic Relations Division for the purpose of keeping a full and complete record of all child support proceedings. 

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But illegitimate children remained second-class citizens for another 10 years before that statute was amended to include them under the domestic relations statute. 

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And it apparently wasn’t until1971 that the Pennsylvania legislature introduced a bill to amend the fornication and bastardy statute to refer to “child born out of wedlock.” 

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About Rick Lee

Rick Lee is a veteran courthouse reporter for the York Daily Record/Sunday News. Contact him at rlee@ydr.com or call 495-1782.
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