As promised

Jumping right in to this week's Ethicist, Randy botches the first question by missing who was in danger of being wronged. He worries about the baseball player having been the victim of unfair dealings on the part Ms. Robel's son. I think there is more of a problem with that deal then Randy does. If it becomes well known that 11 year olds will resell baseballs immediately, players will decrease their practice of giving out baseballs for free, raising the cost of baseballs and harming everyone in the market for authentic Major League baseballs. But that's not even the most serious issue in these facts. The serious issue is whether the son's consent to the deal is genuine at all, or whether Mr. Robel (assuming she's taken her husband's last name) telling him that it was a good idea led to badly formed preferences. Basically, the fact that the son is in fact happy with the deal isn't nearly enough in my book to figure out if the father and the other person who offered to pay did something wrong to either the child or his future self. The child might find the ball incommensurable with any monetary value, or his future self might find the memory of the ball incommensurable. I just worry that he's presently happy because his father basically told him that it was a good deal and should make him happy. Also, most of Randy's answer is irrelevant.

On the second question, I recommend ignoring the second and third paragraphs in which Randy suggests that maybe Doctor Martin can pretend "learning disability" is so vague as to be meaningless, before noting that he can't actually do that. I do agree with Randy's point that it's bizarre to characterize passive-aggressive behavior which is designed to not be noticed as "civil disobedience."

On the third question, I can't immediately find the Pennsylvania Penal Code, but I have the New York one in front of me. Depending on New York case law on how the term "knowingly" is interpreted vis-à-vis willful ignorance, the actions described in the letter would be a crime in New York. In particular, if Ms. Ramond meets the knowledge requirement, it's Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Fifth Degree (165.40), a Class A misdemeanor. That crime sets no lower boundary of the value of the thing possessed, though I imagine that would be taken into account in assessing the level of punishment. So my answer is that once her suspicious are aroused that she might have received something stolen, she had damn well better take some positive steps to ensure that it isn't. Calling the university would be a good one. As a final note, I wouldn't hold myself to the standard in this answer, but that just makes means I'm willing to commit crimes, not that the answer is wrong. I'm also assuming without any support that the legal rule is co-extensive with the ethical obligation to not encourage theft.