Judge denies ex-Dover Police officer’s request to expunge arrest record

 

DOVER — A former city police officer’s bid to expunge records regarding a high profile assault case was denied on Friday, but a judge left open the possibility for re-evaluation if some specific facts are presented.

Thomas W. Webster IV believes an acquittal on a second-degree assault charge regarding a 2013 apprehension is justification to clear his criminal record, which was clean before his arrest while a Dover Police officer.

In a five-page opinion, Kent County Superior Court Resident Judge William Witham noted that while “Case law indicates that the bar for proving manifest injustice is not high,” Mr. Webster’s petition “merely states that ‘the continued existence and possible dissemination of information relating to the arrest of Petitioner causes, or may cause, circumstances which constitute a manifest injustice to petitioner.’

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Thomas Webster IV

“This statement is statutorily insufficient because [Delaware Code] places the burden of alleging facts specific to manifest injustice on the petitioner.”

On Monday, Mr. Webster’s attorney Jim Liguori said the process of requesting an expungement would continue based on the Superior Court’s opinion.

Mr. Webster was arrested by Capitol Police on May 4, 2015, after investigation into an incident involving suspect Lateef Dickerson, who was shown on police dashcam video being kicked in the jaw by the officer during an August 2013 apprehension.

After the not guilty finding by a jury on Dec. 8, 2015, Mr. Webster and the city of Dover agreed upon a $230,000 severance and resignation package less than three months later.

Judge Witham said a “preponderance of evidence” must prove manifest injustice legally, and “an affidavit or memorandum of law supporting Webster’s petition for expungement would aid in alleging specific facts and supplying proof of manifest injustice.”

The court sited two cases showing proving manifest injustice is a low standard — Moss V. State and Sackett v. State. The Delaware Department of Justice opposes the petition, citing the 1997 Farr v. State case of a physician who was charged with sex offenses and later acquitted after a jury trial, and subsequently denied expungement.

The court maintained that while Webster’s case was “somewhat analogous” to Farr v. State, he was never cited by a professional board regarding the same charges against him. The Delaware Board of Medical Practice revoked the doctor’s medical license based on accusations connected to his case.

“If Webster is able to supply specific facts related to his his arrest record would be manifestly unjust, the expungement should be granted under [cases Moss and Sackett v. State],” Judge Witham wrote.

“However, there are arguments in Farr such as the continued existence of a public record that would justify a denial of the petition.”

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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