Edward J. Morris, with him Morris & Victor, for respondents.
Alan L. Adelstein, with him Russell M. Coombs, for petitioner.
President Judge Bowman and Judges Crumlish, Jr., and Wilkinson, Jr., sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Crumlish, Jr.
[5 Pa. Commw. 544 Page 545]
This case, which is before us on original jurisdiction,*fn1 calls for the resolution of a petition by the Attorney General in which he seeks an order granting immunity to a reluctant witness before the Pennsylvania Crime Commission. If allowed, he would be ordered to testify or suffer the legally prescribed consequences. Respondent has filed preliminary objections to this petition alleging that this Court is without jurisdiction because the matter is essentially a criminal proceeding.
Respondent had appeared as a witness and refused to testify before the Pennsylvania Crime Commission at a hearing held in connection with the Commission's investigation into alleged organized crime and corruption within the Philadelphia Police Department. He asserted his privilege against self-incrimination.
Petitioner subsequently filed the instant petition for a grant of immunity under Act of November 22, 1968, P.L. , No. 333, §§ 1-3, 19 P.S. §§ 640.1-640.3. Sections 1 through 3 of the Act provide that in a proceeding relating to organized crime or racketeering before an investigative body such as this, a person who refuses to testify on self-incrimination grounds may be ordered to testify upon a showing, by the attorney general, of a need for a grant of immunity; that the attorney general may petition for an order requiring the person to testify upon a showing of need; and that the witness shall be immune if the evidence would be the basis for prosecution.
Section 5 of the Act provides: "Any person who shall refuse or decline to testify or produce evidence of any other kind after being granted immunity and ordered by the court, shall be guilty of criminal contempt, and upon conviction thereof, shall be sentenced to pay a fine of not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000),
[5 Pa. Commw. 544 Page 546]
or to undergo imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year, or both."
Respondent contends that because this provision of the statute provides for "criminal contempt" upon a failure to testify after the grant of immunity, this Court is without jurisdiction in this and other immunity proceedings brought by the Crime Commission. We disagree.
The jurisdiction of this Court over the proceedings of the Crime Commission has been firmly established. Pennsylvania Crime Commission Petitions, 446 Pa. 152, A.2d (1971), affirming 2 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 650 (1971). As stated by President Judge Bowman, in 2 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 650, 655 (1971), ". . . the legislative intent to confer upon the Commonwealth Court ...