Man convicted of sex with minor does not have to pay restitution to victim’s mother, state court rules

Michael Zrncic

HAMPDEN TOWNSHIP, Cumberland County — A karate instructor who pleaded guilty to charges he had sex with one of his teenage students will not have to pay restitution to his victim’s mother, according to a ruling by a state Superior Court.

Michael Zrncic, 40, pleaded guilty in 2009 to aggravated indecent assault in return for the dropping of several other charges related to an incident where he had sex with one of his students, a 15-year-old girl. He was sentenced to 5 to 10 years in prison.

The plea agreement did not include terms of restitution, according to Superior Court judge Alice Beck Dubow, who wrote the state court’s opinion in the matter.

The issue of restitution languished for more nine years. At issue was whether Zrncic had to reimburse the victim’s mother for the cost of her daughter’s computer, which was seized by police during their investigation, court documents say.

Eventually Cumberland County Judge Jessica E. Brewbaker ruled on August 31, 2016 that Zrncic had to pay more than $1,500 in restitution to the state Victim Compensation Assistance Program and $1,308.77 in restitution to the victim’s mother.

Zrncic appealed the decision.

According to Dubow, the Superior Court overturned a portion of Brewbaker’s ruling because the computer was seized by police to investigate a charge of unlawful contact with a minor against Zrncic. Since that charge was dropped as part of Zrncic’s plea agreement, he argued that he should not be forced to pay restitution for the loss of the computer.

While sympathizing with Brewbaker’s initial ruling, Dubow agreed with Zrncic’s argument, writing that “The Legislature does not authorize (a judge) to impose restitution based only on the (judge’s) sympathies for the victim,” and overturned the ruling forcing Zrncic to pay the $1,308.77 in restitution to the victim’s mother.

The state court did, however, uphold the portion of the ruling forcing Zrncic to pay $1,527.26 to the Victim Compensation Program.