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UNITED STATES EX REL. SIEGEL v. LENNOX

June 14, 1971

UNITED STATES of America ex rel. Abraham SIEGEL
v.
William M. LENNOX, Sheriff of the County of Philadelphia


Joseph S. Lord, III, District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: LORD, III

Relator was convicted on Bills of Indictment Nos. 893, 896, 898 and 900, January Sessions, 1966, charging false pretenses. At the same time he was also convicted of conspiracy with a co-defendant, Harry Schwartz, now dead, on Bill No. 880. At the trial, which took place before the decision in Bruton v. United States, 391 U.S. 123, 88 S. Ct. 1620, 20 L. Ed. 2d 476 (1968), Schwartz's statement, which referred in parts to Siegel, was read into evidence. Having exhausted his state remedies, relator now seeks here a writ of habeas corpus, charging that his Bruton rights were violated. There is no doubt that the use of relator's co-defendant's statement violated the Bruton rule, made retroactive by Roberts v. Russell, 392 U.S. 293, 88 S. Ct. 1921, 20 L. Ed. 2d 1100 (1968). The Commonwealth, however, contends that the error was harmless under Harrington v. California, 395 U.S. 250, 89 S. Ct. 1726, 23 L. Ed. 2d 284 (1969).

 Before the reading of Schwartz's statement, the only evidence to connect him with Siegel as a co-conspirator was inferential. It was shown that Schwartz had appointed Siegel deputy constable in 1955; that Schwartz's wife and Siegel were both officers of the Active Collection Agency; that both Mrs. Schwartz and Siegel received compensation from the Agency and that Siegel's salary had mounted rapidly. Such evidence to establish Schwartz's conspiratorial connection with Siegel's activities was, at best, extremely weak. Of course, for Siegel to be convicted of conspiracy, there had to be at least a second participant. Unless Schwartz's connection with Siegel's illegal activities were proven, the conspiracy indictment against Siegel would fall. The statement provided this nexus between the two defendants. As the Commonwealth stated in its original Memorandum of Law:

 
"In fact, a reading of the record as a whole indicates that the thrust of the presentation toward the end of the trial was an attempt to connect Harry Schwartz with the already clearly proven evidence of Siegel's misconduct."

 Under these circumstances, the Schwartz statement was a "powerfully incriminating extrajudicial" statement which established not only Schwartz's, but Siegel's guilt of the separate and distinct crime of conspiracy. The writ will be granted as to Bill No. 880.

 The Schwartz statement, insofar as it related to Siegel, was:

 
"Q Is there an underlying arrangement between Mrs. Schwartz and Constable Siegel for division of the profits in a more or less partnership arrangement or what is the arrangement there, if any?
 
"A Mr. Siegel came to work for me in September, 1953. At the magnificent sum of or munificent of $50 per week. And when I became a Magistrate his -- I'll tell you the truth, his salary went up in leaps and bounds because that was terrific salvation not only to myself but to every member of my family, and I don't restrict it to 9:00 to 5:00. I mean twenty-four hours a day seven days a week. Today since I became a Magistrate that man has fifty percent of the profits.
 
"Q Does he hold -- but he doesn't hold fifty per cent of the stock?
 
"A No, sir. It's truly a what you call a Horatio Alger story from $50 a week up to about $20,000.
 
"Q And the offices of the collection agency are located where?
 
"A 2307 North Broad ...

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