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decided: September 15, 1966.


Appeal from judgment of Court of Oyer and Terminer and General Jail Delivery and Quarter Sessions of the Peace of Philadelphia County, Dec. T., 1964, No. 535, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Angelo A. Reginelli.


Frank M. Jakobowski, for appellant.

James D. Crawford, Assistant District Attorney, with him Joseph M. Smith, Assistant District Attorney, and Arlen Specter, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Ervin, P. J., Wright, Watkins, Montgomery, Jacobs, Hoffman, and Spaulding, JJ. Opinion by Jacobs, J.

Author: Jacobs

[ 208 Pa. Super. Page 346]

Angelo A. Reginelli and Herbert Price were found guilty of arson after their cases were consolidated for trial before the Hon. Edward J. Griffiths, sitting without a jury. Each appeals from the sentence imposed after his motions in arrest of judgment and for a new trial were overruled. This opinion decides Reginelli's appeal; Price's appeal is the subject of a separate opinion filed today, Commonwealth v. Price, 208 Pa. Superior Ct. 354, 222 A.2d 610 (1966).

At about 9 p.m. on Saturday, July 1, 1961, a fire occurred in Reginelli's shoe repair shop and leather goods store, located at 6545 Roosevelt Boulevard, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Reginelli had locked up the store between 8 and 8:30 p.m. and left the premises.

[ 208 Pa. Super. Page 347]

At the trial, Lieutenant Purnell B. Short, a member of the Philadelphia Fire Department for eighteen years and an investigator for the Philadelphia Fire Marshal's office for five years, investigating about 500 fires each year, testified that it was his opinion that the fire was incendiary in origin. The Commonwealth also presented evidence that on May 24, 1961, about five weeks before the fire, Reginelli had caused the insurance on the contents of his store to be increased from $6,000 to $31,000, and that on June 28, 1961, three days before the fire, a distraint for rent in the amount of $950 had been issued against him.

A Commonwealth witness, Edward Klayman, then testified that he was introduced to Reginelli in the early part of July, 1961 by a friend, Norman Prussell, who subsequently died in 1963. On that date Klayman overheard a conversation in which Reginelli told Prussell that he had been questioned by the Fire Marshal's office and that he was very worried about the view they took concerning the fire. Klayman said that he then drove Prussell and Reginelli to meet Price at a luncheonette near the Einstein Medical Center on Fifth Street. According to Klayman the four proceeded to Fifth and Chestnut Streets, at which point Reginelli, Price and Prussell left the automobile and came back within ten or fifteen minutes. After returning to the car, the two appellants and Prussell divided the sum of $2,000 among themselves. According to Klayman, Reginelli was upset and said: ". . . now I don't have my business, I don't have a job, and I'm having trouble with my wife. The Fire Marshals are bothering me." Appellant Price then said to Reginelli: "You don't have to think about the prosecution. They don't know what's in your mind. You are insured for arson. But we are professionals. We know what we use, and its undetectable, believe me."

[ 208 Pa. Super. Page 348]

Reginelli took the stand and testified that on July 5, 1961 he went to an insurance adjuster by the name of Feinstein, located at Fifth and Chestnut Streets, who advanced him $2,000 in check form and for that $2,000 he retained Feinstein to adjust his claim. He then went to the Central Penn National Bank and cashed the $2,000 check. He denied that he ever saw or knew Klayman or Price prior to his arrest, which occurred in 1964. He testified that there was no one with him when he picked up the money. Price took the stand and testified that he never knew Reginelli and was never in his shoe store. He stated that he was friendly with Norman Prussell and had known Edward Klayman for twenty years. Both appellants denied setting the fire or causing the same to be set.

In rebuttal the Commonwealth called William Frith, a detective lieutenant in the Philadelphia Police Department, who had questioned Reginelli on July 15, 1964. The witness testified that Reginelli had told him during the interrogation that at the time of going to the insurance adjuster and receiving the $2,000 he was with Klayman, Prussell and Price. William Boardman, of the arson squad of the National Board of Fire Underwriters, also testified in rebuttal on behalf of the Commonwealth that at the interrogation Reginelli admitted that he knew Price and admitted being with Prussell, Klayman and Price the day he got the $2,000. At the interrogation, ...

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