Wellsboro school board member resigns amid alleged 2001 underage relationship plea

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The Tioga County District Attorney Krista Deats filed a motion requesting a judge to order Lawton to relinquish and vacate his position on the Wellsboro Area School District board of directors.

While employed as a child care worker with Laurel Youth Services, Lawton allegedly had improper relations with a 17-year-old girl and served time in prison for the charges against him.

According to Deats, the complaint consists of the history of Lawton’s 2001 convictions and the elements of those crimes. The complaint then briefly explains why the DA believes these misdemeanors relate to crimes of “moral turpitude,” which is defined as “a quality of dishonesty or other immorality that is determined by a court to be present in the commission of a criminal offense.”

The higher courts in Pennsylvania have ruled that in a complaint such as this, the judge must determine whether or not the crimes involve “moral turpitude” solely on the elements of the crime charged, and the definition or their interpretation of “moral turpitude.”

The determination of whether a crime of which the defendant has been convicted involves moral turpitude, and thereby warrants relinquishment of said office, turns on the element of the crime, not on the independent examination of the details of the behavior underlying the crime, said Deats, referring to case law of Garner v. Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs, State Bd. of Optometry, 97 A.3d 437 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2014).

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