Case dropped for York-area US Census taker who was accused of trespassing

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch
U.S. Census 2020 form

York County prosecutors have dropped the case against a U.S. Census taker who was charged with trespassing on private property in northern York County while doing her job.

Margaret C. Powell, 53, of Heidelberg Township, was scheduled to have a habeas corpus hearing Thursday morning in York County Court. Such hearings determine whether a criminal defendant is properly or wrongly charged.

But instead of holding the hearing, presiding Common Pleas Judge Gregory M. Snyder dismissed the charges, according to court records.

"We're obviously happy with the results and we hope there's no ill will between the parties anymore," said Powell's attorney, public defender Matt Sembach. "I think this was a tough lesson learned for all parties involved."

Sembach confirmed the case was dismissed after a prosecutor stated in open court that the alleged victims were no longer interested in having the case against Powell pursued.

"She was a dedicated employee, and she was committed to making sure that she did everything possible to ensure an accurate census was completed," Sembach said of Powell.

The York Dispatch on Thursday asked to speak with the prosecutor in the case and is awaiting a response.

The background: State police filed charges of trespassing, harassment and criminal mischief against Powell on Oct. 19.

The criminal mischief charge, filed because the victims had alleged Powell damaged their fence, was thrown out at the time of Powell's preliminary hearing, court records state.

Court documents indicate there was a disturbance at a home in the 1800 block of Pinetown Road in Warrington Township about 5:10 p.m. Sept. 17.

The homeowner, Michelle S. Piper, told police that Powell forced open an electronic gate and refused to leave after being ordered to do so, court documents alleged.

In response to a request for comment last fall, the U.S. Census Bureau said in an email that the Constitution mandates censuses be taken.

"We ask that households cooperate with our census takers and respond to all Census Bureau censuses and surveys as it impacts their community's future," the email stated.

In a Nov. 10 blog post, Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham thanked Census takers, saying they were critical in accounting for 99.98% of all addresses nationwide.

"Repeatedly, our staff showed grace under pressure, persistence, and countless instances of kindness and concern for those in their community," he wrote in his blog post. "We have heard so many amazing stories and are cautious about sharing them because we take our vow to protect confidentiality so seriously."

— Reach senior crime reporter Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.