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COMMONWEALTH EX REL. SAWCHAK v. ASHE (09/26/51)

September 26, 1951

COMMONWEALTH EX REL. SAWCHAK
v.
ASHE, WARDEN



COUNSEL

William S. Rahauser, Dist. Atty., Gilbert J. Helwig, Asst. Dist. Atty., Pittsburgh, for appellee.

Author: Rhodes

[ 169 Pa. Super. Page 530]

RHODES, Presiding Judge.

Relator, William Sawchak, in his petition for writ of habeas corpus filed in this Court, averred that he

[ 169 Pa. Super. Page 531]

    was unlawfully detained in the Western State Penitentiary under sentences imposed on void indictments. The sentences which had been imposed by the Court of Quarter Sessions of Bedford County on October 16, 1944, aggregated not less than nine and one-half years nor more than nineteen years.

Relator entered pleas of guilty to four separate bills of indictment, Nos. 1, 2, 4, and 5, December Sessions, 1944, Bedford County, charging him and a co-defendant with assault and battery with intent to kill, resisting arrest, carrying a deadly weapon, and attempted robbery. The sentence on bill No. 1, assault and battery with intent to kill, was for a term of imprisonment in the Western State Penitentiary of not less than three and one-half years nor more than seven years; the sentence on bill No. 2, resisting arrest, was for a term of imprisonment in the Bedford County Jail of not less than six months nor more than one year, the sentence to run concurrently with sentence imposed on bill No. 1; the sentence on bill No. 4, carrying deadly weapon, was for a term of imprisonment in the Western State Penitentiary of not less than one-half year nor more than one year, sentence to be consecutive to sentences on bills Nos. 1 and 2; the sentence on bill No. 5, attempted robbery, was for a term of imprisonment in the Western State Penitentiary of not less than five and one-half years nor more than eleven years, the sentence to be consecutive to sentences on bills Nos. 1, 2, and 4.

On October 1, 1944, relator and his confederate, Peter Revty, were stopped by an officer of the Pennsylvania State Police in Bedford County while operating a motor vehicle in violation of the law. The car had been stolen. The officer directed relator and his companion to get out of the car. Revty drew a gun and threatened the officer. Relator attempted to take the officer's gun from his person. Thereafter Revty shot

[ 169 Pa. Super. Page 532]

    and wounded the officer; he and relator then fled in the stolen car. They were soon apprehended; both were armed. They were confined in the Bedford County Jail in separate cells. Relator signed a confession in which he recited in detail his extensive criminal activities including the crimes committed in Bedford County. On October 2, 1944, relator was brought before a justice of the peace in the Borough of Bedford at which time the charges that were contained in the information were read to him and he was advised of his rights. These charges were subsequently incorporated in the bills of indictment. Before the justice of the peace, relator admitted his guilt and said that he understood that he was waiving a preliminary hearing. Relator was 19 years of age, and had a seventh grade education.

Answers were filed to the rule to show cause issued on relator's petition by the District Attorney of Bedford County and the warden of the Western State Penitentiary. We ordered the matter set down for argument, and briefs were filed. Subsequently, relator filed an 'amended Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus' containing additional averments.

In his petitions, relator made a number of factual allegations relating to the alleged deprivation of constitutional rights; the averments were denied in the answer of the District Attorney of Bedford County. Relator's averments were in effect (1) that, prior to the entry of pleas of guilty and before sentences were imposed, relator was not advised of his right to counsel by the trial judge or the district attorney; (2) that he did not waive his right to counsel; (3) that notwithstanding his request he was not afforded access to counsel, family, or friends during the period of sixteen days' ...


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