HARRISBURG, Pa. (Reuters) - The fate of 1,404 bottles of rare wine seized from a private collector under Pennsylvania's strict liquor laws hangs on a judge's ruling next week on a loophole that may allow hospital "use" of forfeited liquor.
The wine was confiscated in 2014 under a Pennsylvania law that limits nearly all alcoholic beverage sales to its chain of state liquor stores, none of which sells rare vintages.
It was among a cache of 2,447 bottles with an estimated value of at least $125,000 that Pennsylvania State Police seized from Arthur Goldman, a lawyer in Malvern, Pennsylvania.
Chester County Hospital in the Philadelphia suburb of West Chester filed a court petition on Friday seeking custody of the wine, which it hopes to resell for charity under an obscure provision of state law that allows forfeited liquor "to be delivered to a hospital for its use."
Goldman, who admitted selling the wine to private enthusiasts, received a form of probation aimed at eventually clearing his record.
State police moved ahead with plans to destroy the confiscated wine, which had been placed in an evidence room in Philadelphia.
That possibility horrified wine enthusiasts and even the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, which urged a solution that would preserve the wine that it said included "rare and hard-to-obtain vintages."
A week ago, Goldman reached a settlement with state police allowing him to reclaim 1,043 bottles of the forfeited wine. The remaining 1,404 bottles are being sought by the hospital.
Goldman and his lawyers, while praising the settlement, would not answer questions about it.
Never before has forfeited liquor been turned over to a third party, Trooper Adam Reed, a state police spokesman, said on Tuesday.
Chester County Judge Edward Griffin will decide on Sept. 3 whether state law intended hospital wine donations to be only for medicinal purposes, or whether the hospital can legally resell the bottles for charity.
Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Peter Cooney