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Kwiatecki v. United States

United States District Court, D. Maryland

May 12, 2016

EDWARD PAUL KWIATECKI Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Respondent.

MEMORANDUM

James K. Bredar United States District Judge

On May 5, 2016, Edward Paul Kwiatecki (“Kwiatecki”), who lists a District of Columbia office building as his address, filed a “motion for expungement of conviction.” He seeks to expunge his 1983 conviction of aiding and abetting and receipt of stolen property. See United States v. Kwiatecki, Criminal No. M-83-0273 (D. Md.). Kwiatecki claims that the convictions are old, were tainted by constitutional and statutory infirmities, and have been fully served. ECF No. 1. He states that he has earned a juris doctorate and although the convictions may not directly prevent him from obtaining a law license, they impose an impediment. The document was treated as a petition for habeas relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241.[1] For reasons to follow, the petition shall be summarily denied.

According to the criminal docket in United States v. Kwiatecki, Criminal No. M-83-0273, on July 14, 1983, Kwiatecki was indicted on counts of interstate transportation of stolen property, receipt of stolen property, and aiding and abetting, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2314, 2315, and 2 (copy attached). A superseding indictment as to those same counts was entered on September 1, 1983. Paper No. 21. A bench trial proceeded on an agreed statement of facts as to the second count of the superseding indictment and Kwiatecki was found guilty on that count on October 28, 1983. The original indictment was dismissed by leave of the court on December 20, 1983.[2] United States v. Kwiatecki, Criminal No. M-83-0273 at Paper No. 58.

Judge James R. Miller, Jr., sentenced Kwiatecki to a term of four years and ordered him to pay restitution of $6, 000.00 to the Exxon Corporation. Id. at Paper No. 59. The criminal judgment was affirmed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on July 15, 1985. See United States v. Kwiatecki, 767 F.2d 914 (4th Cir. 1985). On August 4, 1986, Kwiatecki’s motion for reduction of sentence was granted. Id. at Paper No. 84. Judge Miller suspended the balance of Kwiatecki’s sentence and placed him on conditional probation for five years. Id. On August 15, 1986, count one of the superseding indictment was dismissed. On January 29, 1988, Judge Frederic N. Smalkin terminated probation prior to the original expiration date. Paper Nos. 85 & 86.

No federal statute or regulation generally provides for expungement of a federal offense. The law among the circuits indicates that a federal court has only very limited discretionary power to order the expungement of records in a criminal case and that the authority to do so is a narrow one which is reserved for the unusual or exceptional case. See United States v. Noonan, 906 F.2d 952, 956 (3rd Cir. 1990); United States v. Doe, 556 F.2d 391, 393 (6th Cir. 1977); United States v. Linn, 513 F.2d 925, 927 (10th Cir. 1975); see also Sealed Appellant v. Sealed Appellee, 130 F.3d 695, 697 (5th Cir.1997); United States v. Smith, 940 F.2d 395, 396 (9th Cir. 1991) (per curiam); Geary v. United States, 901 F.2d 670, 679-80 (8th Cir. 1990). The Fourth Circuit has concurred with this reasoning in recognizing that there may be occasions where it is appropriate for a court to order an expungement because of "extreme or exceptional circumstances.” See, e.g., Allen v. Webster, 742 F.2d 153, 155 (4th Cir. 1984); Woodall v. Pettibone, 465 F.2d 49, 52 (4th Cir. 1972). Indeed, one opinion from this Court has held that the Court did not have ancillary jurisdiction to grant a motion for expungement of a federal court conviction on purely equitable grounds relating to the impact of the conviction on defendant’s employment opportunities, where there was no factual interdependency between the conviction and the equitable circumstances defendant claimed justified expungement and there was no claim that the conviction was unlawful or unconstitutional, that the arrest or conviction flowed from official misconduct, or that the statute on which the conviction was based had been found unconstitutional. See United States v. Harris, 847 F.Supp.2d 828, 832-34 (D. Md. 2012).

The view among the federal courts is that records of valid arrests, indictments, or convictions ordinarily may not be expunged. See, e.g., United States v. Schnitzer, 567 F.2d 536, 540 (2d Cir. 1977). If an arrest is made on probable cause or if an indictment is properly obtained, records of these events should not be expunged, even if the charges are later dismissed. Id. The rationale for generally refusing to expunge arrest or indictment records is that an arrest or indictment has independent legal significance, insofar as it shows the existence of probable cause to believe that a defendant committed a crime, even when the government ultimately fails to prove guilt. Id.; see also United States v. Dunegan, 251 F.3d 477, 480 (3rd Cir. 2001) (district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to expunge a criminal record, even when no conviction resulted, in the absence of an applicable expungement statute or any allegation that the criminal proceedings were invalid or illegal). There may be an exception to this rule when the government dismisses the indictment and concedes the innocence of the defendant or when the indictment is constitutionally infirm, is based on a statute that is subsequently declared unconstitutional, or is returned for purposes of harassment or intimidation or some other improper reason. See Sealed Appellant, 130 F.3d at 697; Schnitzer, 567 F.2d at 540; United States v. Flagg, 178 F.Supp.2d 903, 905-06 (S.D. Ohio 2001).

Kwiatecki asks the record be expunged because it would cause unspecified impediments. In the 33 years since his arrest and convictions, the legality of which have never been called into question, there apparently have been no significant adverse consequences for him. In similar circumstances, this court and other courts have declined to order expungement. See United States v. Gary, 206 F.Supp.2d 741, 741-42 (D. Md. 2002); United States v. Steelwright, 179 F.Supp.2d 567, 573-74 (D. Md. 2002); see also United States v. Janik, 10 F.3d 470, 472-73 (10th Cir. 1993); United States v. Howard, 275 F.Supp.2d 260, 263 (N.D.N.Y. 2003); United States v. Agile, 199 F.Supp.2d 5, 7 (E.D.N.Y. 2002).

While the Court is sympathetic to Kwiatecki's request, he has not established equitable grounds to expunge court records regarding his convictions. The petition will be denied by separate ...


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