TITUSVILLE — An attorney who currently is a part-time employee of Allegheny College’s Center for Political Participation has been charged with stealing presidential campaign signs.
Pennsylvania State Police accuse Allison Hartle, 35, of 232 Overlook Drive, Franklin, with one count of theft by unlawful taking. Police allege Hartle stole 15 presidential campaign signs, as well as one presidential campaign flag, from property in the area of Marsh Lane and Route 8 in Cherrytree Township, Venango County, around 12:10 p.m. Aug. 31.
Police filed the theft charge against Hartle on Sept. 30 in Venango County Magisterial District Court. It’s graded as a first-class misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of five years in jail and a $10,000 fine, if convicted.
Hartle has been sent a summons via first class mail to appear at a preliminary hearing on the theft charge in Venango County Central Court next month, according to court records.
Hartle, a licensed practicing attorney in Pennsylvania since Feb. 8, 2013, has a law office in Franklin.
While being interviewed Aug. 31 by state police about the alleged theft, Hartle told the trooper “that she would pay restitution for the signs and stated ‘I’m not like a criminal or anything,’” according to the affidavit of probable cause filed in the case.
While the criminal complaint and the affidavit of probable cause only indicate presidential campaign signs and a presidential campaign flag were taken, one of the alleged victims in the incident confirmed to the Tribune at his business in Titusville on Tuesday that all the materials allegedly taken were for the Donald Trump presidential campaign.
Hartle works part time as program coordinator for Allegheny College’s Department of Law and Policy and the college’s Center for Political Participation. She’s had the position since January.
In addition, Hartle formerly was an attorney within agencies in both Crawford and Venango counties which included a temporary stint with Crawford County earlier this year.
The Tribune filed a Right-to-Know request with Crawford County for a copy of Hartle’s resume and work history.
Brian Harward, an Allegheny College political science professor who is director of the college’s Center for Political Participation, told the Tribune he was aware Hartle had been charged.
“I think she’s embarrassed and contrite,” Harward told the Tribune. “She’s been very professional and very straightforward with me.”
“I expect she’ll continue to be as professional with me going forward,” he added.
Allegheny issued a brief statement when contacted by the Tribune.
“Allegheny College has no public comment regarding the charges filed against Allison Hartle, as the college had no involvement in the events alleged in the charges and has no involvement in the legal proceedings involving Ms. Hartle,” Susan Salton wrote in an email to the Tribune. Salton is Allegheny’s vice president for college relations.
Hartle had served as attorney within Crawford County government twice since being admitted to practice law in Pennsylvania.
She was an attorney on a temporary basis with the Crawford County Human Services Department from April 16 through June 18 of this year, according to the county’s Human Resources Department. Hartle previously served as an assistant public defender in Crawford County from March 10, 2014, through Oct. 19, 2015.
Hartle also served as an assistant public defender with Venango County from October 2015 through October 2017, according to her resume.
Venango County District Attorney D. Shawn White told the Tribune his office won’t handle prosecution of the case since Hartle is a practicing attorney in Venango County. White told the Tribune the case has been turned over to the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General for prosecution.
According to the affidavit of probable cause, a witness driving along Route 8 around midday Aug. 31 saw a black sport utility vehicle parked on the berm of Route 8 with a woman picking up presidential campaign signs. The witness went back to the area where “she observed the female with a ‘handful’ of signs under her arm walking toward her vehicle,” the affidavit said.
The witness told police she then took pictures of the black SUV’s license plate, according to the affidavit. The woman with signs noticed the witness photographing her vehicle “and immediately ran to her vehicle and fled the scene,” the affidavit said.
A trooper later initiated a traffic stop near Rosemont Farm Road on a vehicle matching the description of Hartle’s SUV, which turned out to be Hartle in her vehicle, according to the affidavit.
Hartle was “asked about taking some presidential campaign signs from the side of the road in which she replied that she did,” the affidavit said.
“She further related that she was at her sister’s house and when she left she was upset over the state that the country is in right now,” the affidavit said.
Hartle then became visibly upset, the affidavit said. She admitted to the trooper the signs were at her home and the trooper followed Hartle to her home, the affidavit said. Hartle gave the trooper a presidential campaign flag and three of the signs, the affidavit said.
“When asked where the other signs were, she related that she threw them out,” the affidavit said. “Hartle related that she would pay restitution for the signs and stated ‘I’m not like a criminal or anything.’”