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COMMONWEALTH v. MAHRAMUS (12/14/67)

decided: December 14, 1967.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
MAHRAMUS, APPELLANT



Appeal from order of Court of Quarter Sessions of Washington County, Feb. T., 1964, No. 233, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Nick Mahramus.

COUNSEL

George B. Stegenga, for appellant.

Adrian V. Sannier, Assistant District Attorney, with him Harold V. Fergus, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

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

Author: Spaulding

[ 211 Pa. Super. Page 377]

This is an appeal by Nick Mahramus, appellant, from a conviction for a violation of the Act of June 24, 1939, P. L. 872, § 511, 18 P.S. § 4511, commonly referred to as the "Disorderly House" statute. Appellant was tried non-jury in the Court of Quarter Sessions of Washington County, found guilty and sentenced to pay a fine of $100 and serve 45 days in the Washington County Jail. Motions for a new trial and arrest of judgment were denied by the trial court.

The statute under which appellant was convicted provides, in pertinent part, "Whoever keeps and maintains a common, ill-governed and disorderly house or place, to the encouragement of idleness, gaming, drinking, or misbehavior, and to the common nuisance and disturbance of the neighborhood or orderly citizens, is guilty of a misdemeanor. . . ." As stated by this court in Commonwealth v. Greer, 203 Pa. Superior Ct. 110, 113, 198 A.2d 626 (1964), citing Commonwealth v. Ciccone, 85 Pa. Superior Ct. 316 (1925), "In a broad sense the term 'disorderly house' includes bawdyhouses, common gambling houses, and places of like character. It must, however, be recognized that the specific kinds of disorderly houses which are regarded in law as nuisances per se are bawdyhouses and gaming houses. The other kinds of disorderly houses are nuisances only as they are conducted in a manner to annoy the public; this class includes tippling houses and places of like

[ 211 Pa. Super. Page 378]

    character. The neighbors who complain of the disturbance caused by this latter class of nuisances, may be called as witnesses to state the specific facts upon which they ground their complaints, and which it is charged disturb the peace and quiet of the neighborhood. Such houses, not being nuisances per se, it must be shown that they are conducted in a manner to annoy the public, and in such a case evidence as to the general reputation of the place is not admissible."

Appellant's sole contention on this appeal is that there was insufficient evidence to sustain his conviction, and that the motion in arrest of judgment was therefore improperly denied. To determine the validity of this contention we must examine the evidence presented by the Commonwealth in support of its allegations.

A policeman of the Borough of Canonsburg, while on foot patrol, passed a storeroom at 539 Adams Avenue. He testified that as he went by the rear door of the storeroom he could hear voices, although he could not make out any of the conversation, and that he could also hear what sounded like "money hitting the pavement, silver money hitting the pavement." The policeman then called the desk sergeant and related this information, whereupon the Chief of Police obtained a search warrant. Upon their arrival at the storeroom, after knocking twice the police forced their way in and observed a total of six people, all except the defendant sitting at a table. Two of the people at this table were playing cards, while the remainder appeared to be watching television. There was no evidence of any gambling. The police confiscated two decks of playing cards, an empty cigar box and a large cloth, approximately 9 X 5, which had been nailed to a plywood board leaning against a wall in the rear of the building. Further testimony elicited information that the police had received complaints to the effect that groups of people

[ 211 Pa. Super. Page 379]

    had been congregating at the storeroom until the early hours of the morning, and an officer had been assigned to the storeroom to prevent gambling. This officer was stationed there for a period of four different nights, but no evidence of gambling on the premises could be obtained from him or any other member of the police force, ...


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