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COMMONWEALTH v. RICCI ET AL. (03/24/55)

March 24, 1955

COMMONWEALTH
v.
RICCI ET AL., APPELLANTS.



Appeals, Nos. 153 to 161, inclusive, April T., 1954, from judgments of Court of Quarter Sessions of Allegheny County, April T., 1952, Nos. 209 to 216, inclusive, in cases of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Caesar Ricci et al. Judgments affirmed.

COUNSEL

Charles J. Margiotti, Charles B. Jarrett and Harold Gondelman, with them V. J. Rich, M. Barney Cohen and Margiotti & Casey, for appellants.

William J. O'Donnell, Assistant District Attorney, with him James F. Malone, Jr., District Attorney, for appellee.

Before Rhodes, P. J., Hirt, Ross, Gunther, Wright and Ervin, JJ. (woodside, J., absent).

Author: Wright

[ 177 Pa. Super. Page 558]

OPINION BY WRIGHT, J.,

At April Sessions, 1952, the Allegheny County Grand Jury returned eight bills of indictment as follows: No. 209 charging Ernest Dequenne with accepting a bribe from Fred Fiori; No. 210 charging Dequenne with misbehavior in office; No. 211 charging Fiori with giving a bribe to Caesar Ricci; No. 212 charging Fiori with giving a bribe to Dequenne; No.

[ 177 Pa. Super. Page 559213]

charging Fiori with giving a bribe to John J. Mullen; No. 214 charging Ricci with accepting a bribe from Fiori; No. 215 charging Ricci with misbehavior in office; and No. 216 charging that Ricci and Dequenne conspired together between themselves and with Fiori and other persons unknown to accept a bribe from Fiori. These eight indictments were consolidated for the purposes of trial, which lasted for nine days with a record of 1332 pages. Following verdicts of guilty, motions for new trial and in arrest of judgment were filed. The motions were overruled by the court en banc, sentences were imposed, and these appeals followed.

The governing body of the third class city of Clairton consists of four councilmen and a mayor, each being entitled to one vote. Ricci and Dequenne were members of council, and Mullen was the mayor. The city owned a tract of approximately 66 acres of land containing coal deposits, and known as the Gun Club Site. In 1948 and again in 1950 council discussed letting a contract for stripping this coal in order to raise additional revenue. Public bids were advertised for, but none were received. Subsequently, a Mr. Lhormer made an offer of 50› a ton, which he later increased to 60› a ton, and a contract was awarded to him. Fiori was to be a sub-contractor under Lhormer. This contract was afterward cancelled by mutual agreement. In April, 1951, Fiori attended a council meeting and discussed the terms of the coal stripping project. According to Mullen's testimony, during the week of October 14, 1951, Dequenne came to his home and said "that he had a proposition that had been brought to him by Councilman Ricci, whereby he could make some money from the coal up at the Gun Club Site,... that Mr. Fiori had offered to give the three of us each one thousand dollars, with the

[ 177 Pa. Super. Page 560]

    understanding that as the coal was taken out, as it progressed, the operation, we would get more money until we each should get eventually around between three and four thousand dollars, and he asked me if I was interested and I said, yes, I was interested".*fn1 Mullen further testified that in the following week, on October 24, 1951, Fiori came to his home "and said that he had learned from Mr. Dequenne that I was going along on this coal deal and was pleased about it and gave me an envelope which he said contained a thousand dollars to seal the bargain. I asked him if Mr. Dequenne and Mr. Ricci were getting the same, if I understood the agreement properly, and he said, 'Yes, each got a thousand and this is yours'". In the next few days Mullen consulted the City Solicitor, the City Clerk, and several other prominent persons. He was not permitted to testify as to these conversations. Mullen then testified that on Wednesday evening, October 31, 1951, following a political rally, Dequenne asked "if I would come over and get in Ricci's car". Thereupon the three of them discussed the manner in which they would present the contract in council. According to Mullen, Ricci said, "I understand now that you're going along on this thing and that Fred was down to see you". Mullen replied "He gave me a thousand dollars and told me he gave each of you a thousand too". ...


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