An Illinois man admitted in federal court Tuesday to destroying certain World War II-era military personnel records that he was supposed to be scanning while employed at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis earlier this year.
Peter Panouzis, 31, of East Alton, Illinois, was contracted by Ancestry.com to take part in the website's joint effort with the National Archives and Records Administration to digitize old draft cards.
Those cards contained a young man's basic info — name, age, date and place of birth, and address. However, if at any time the young registrant had moved to a different address, the NPRC would affix a small attachment noting the change.
According to Panouzis' attorney, Matthew Radefield, scanning those small attachments took three to five times longer than a simple draft card.
"Mr. Panouzis already suffers from bad anxiety," says Radefield. That anxiety combined with his employer's expectation of high productivity caused him to simply throw some of the small attachments away. According to the plea agreement, Panouzis threw away attachments pertaining to at least 50 individuals.
Radefield says that in recent years, other individuals had committed similar or even worse acts related to the national archives and were able to get diversion or a misdemeanor. In contrast, his client — who he says has no criminal history — will probably get probation but will have a federal felony conviction of destruction of records.
"I think they're making an example of Mr. Panouzis," he says, adding that they appeared to want to send the message that failure to preserve even the smallest records was a serious crime.
Here's the plea agreement.