Another customer at the Common Cents convenience store found the wallet.Unfortunately, she also contacted the police for help in tracking down the owner. When Mr. McCreary, the man who lost the wallet, realized he'd forgotten it, he returned to Casper. When he couldn't find it, he filed a police report. The police then called Ms. Heinrich and asked her for the wallet. She declined stating that she would hang onto it until she heard from the owner himself what he wanted done with the wallet. At this point the police became aggressive and demanding and, at no time, did they inform Mr. McCreary of the woman who had his wallet. Ultimately, they arrested and hauled her into court for "interference". Her first trial ended in a mistrial and a second trial is scheduled for next week in which, if convicted, she could face a $1,000 fine and a one year in prison.
Deborah Heinrich said she opened it to find who it belonged to and then started making phone calls.
"I left messages at his home phone after I found his number on the Internet," Heinrich said. "I called his bank and a Harley Davidson dealer listed on a business card in his wallet."
People can and, I'm sure, will debate the merits of the decision not to simply give the wallet to the police. I think the police were doing a bit of interfering themselves, but that's not my issue in all of this. My issue is that the woman now faces a year in prison and a sizable fine essentially for trying to return Mr. McCreary's wallet without the police's help. Even if one thinks that the woman was in the wrong for refusing to give the wallet to the police, what possible reason is there for her to face punishment? Her crime was trying to do the right thing in a manner other than that prescribed by the state. This is simply a case of the state wanting to show her (and everyone else) who is "in charge."
Even more troubling to me is the implication at the end of the article that Ms. Heinrich bears responsibility for this whole mess. It seems to me the only thing she did wrong was to hurt the feelings of the local police department who would have been denied kudos from the owner of the wallet if she had been allowed to return the wallet herself. In the end, the man who lost his wallet got it back, the police got their praise from him, the taxpayers are going to shoulder the expense of at least two trials (including bringing out Mr. McCreary from his home in Colorado to testify), and the woman faces prison time for being a good Samaritan.