Pennsylvania’s Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program — known as ARD — is meant to give participants a “fresh start.” If they complete the program, they can get a clean record.
Under a new Pennsylvania law, someone charged with a sex offense against a child can not qualify for the state’s first-time offender program.
State Rep. Kerry Benninghoff said ARD was set up for non-violent offenses — maybe a first-time DUI.
“I don’t think it was ever intended to be used for sexual offenders, especially sexual offenders of minors," Benninghoff said.
But in 2005, a well-known Centre County man facing charges of sexually assaulting two boys was allowed in the ARD program. About a decade later, that man — Christopher Lee, a former township supervisor and CEO of the Boal Mansion Museum — was convicted of possessing child porn.
Benninghoff said his concern was that someone accepted into ARD could get their record expunged. Their prior offenses might not be caught if they’re later charged with new crimes.
“I just think that we really need to protect our children the best that we can, and I think we need to have that prior knowledge available,” Benninghoff said.
The bill that makes that change to ARD unanimously passed the state House and Senate and was signed into law by Governor Wolf.