Pennsylvania hospital ends pursuit of confiscated wine

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 16, 2015 4:01 PM

By David DeKok

HARRISBURG, Pa. (Reuters) - A Pennsylvania hospital will not appeal a court ruling denying its request to auction off hundreds of bottles of vintage wine confiscated from a connoisseur, its lawyer said on Wednesday, opening the way for the state police to destroy the cache.

Chester County Hospital in West Chester had sought to exploit a provision in state law allowing confiscated liquor to be turned over to hospitals. It wanted to sell off the 1,352 bottles at a charity event.

But Chester County Judge Edward Griffith ruled on Tuesday that legislators who wrote the law in 1935 intended such wine to be used for medicinal purposes.

“While of course I am disappointed in the outcome, I thank the judge for his thoughtful consideration of the hospital’s application and his careful review of the law,” lawyer Dawson Muth told Reuters on Wednesday in an email. “The hospital does not intend to appeal the ruling.”

Pennsylvania bans most private liquor sales, allowing their purchase only at state liquor stores in nearly all instances. Restaurants and wine enthusiasts complain the law makes it nearly impossible to legally acquire many fine wines not sold by state stores, especially rare older vintages.

In 2014, state police seized 2,447 bottles of fine wine with an estimated value of at least $125,000 from the home of Arthur Goldman, after learning the lawyer was selling bottles from his collection to fellow enthusiasts.

Goldman reached a settlement with the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office this summer allowing him to reclaim 1,047 bottles of his choosing. Of the remaining 1,400, 16 will be kept as evidence and 32 were accidentally broken.

The rest will be destroyed, state officials said. Goldman, from the Philadelphia suburb of Malvern, could not be reached for comment. He is presently on probation.

“We understand the different sentiment about this in the court of public opinion,” said Jeff Johnson, a spokesman for the state attorney general. “We are tasked with enforcing the liquor code as written.”

Adam Reed, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania State Police, said he could not comment on how or when the wine would be destroyed.

(Reporting by David DeKok; Editing by Frank McGurty and Eric Beech)