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COMMONWEALTH v. BLATSTEIN (12/11/74)

decided: December 11, 1974.

COMMONWEALTH, APPELLANT,
v.
BLATSTEIN, APPELLANT



Appeals from judgment of sentence of Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division, of Philadelphia, Oct. T., 1969, Nos. 2678, 2679, and 2680, in cases of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Harry Blatstein (at No. 1430); Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Harry Blatstein (at No. 1843).

COUNSEL

David Richman, James T. Ranney, and Steven H. Goldblatt, Assistant District Attorneys, Abraham J. Gafni, Deputy District Attorney, Richard A. Sprague, First Assistant District Attorney, and F. Emmett Fitzpatrick, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellant, at No. 1430.

Joseph A. C. Girone and Alfred P. Filippone, for appellant, at No. 1843.

Joseph A. C. Girone and Alfred P. Filippone, for appellee, at No. 1430.

David Richman, James T. Ranney, and Steven H. Goldblatt, Assistant District Attorneys, Abraham J. Gafni, Deputy District Attorney, Richard A. Sprague, First Assistant District Attorney, and F. Emmett Fitzpatrick, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee, at No. 1843.

Watkins, P. J., Jacobs, Hoffman, Cercone, Price, Van der Voort, and Spaeth, JJ. Opinion by Cercone, J. Jacobs, J., concurs in the result. Spaeth, J., did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case.

Author: Cercone

[ 231 Pa. Super. Page 310]

On October 30, 1969, a Philadelphia County Grand Jury returned four true bills of indictment charging appellant, Harry Blatstein, under the Penal Code of 1939, with bribery of governmental officials and employees,*fn1 bribery of governmental servants and employees,*fn2 extortion,*fn3 and malfeasance, misfeasance and nonfeasance in office.*fn4 Following a long and complex procedural battle, the matter finally came to trial on April 4, 1972.*fn5 On April 11, 1972, the jury returned

[ 231 Pa. Super. Page 311]

    a verdict of guilty on each of the four bills of indictment. The appellant filed timely motions for a new trial and in arrest of judgment, whereupon the court en banc heard oral argument. The court en banc denied defendant's motions regarding the charges of bribery of servants and employees (Indictment No. 2678), and malfeasance, misfeasance, nonfeasance (Indictment No. 2680). However, it granted defendant's motions in arrest of judgment on the charges of bribery of governmental officers and employees (Indictment No. 2677), and extortion (Indictment No. 2679). On Indictments Nos. 2678 and 2680 the court imposed a sentence of one year probation and a fine of $500.00. Both the defendant and the Commonwealth have appealed from those orders, except that the Commonwealth does not now contest the court's ruling on the charge of bribery of governmental officers and employees.

Factual Background

To expedite the planning and construction of Philadelphia's new sports stadium (now Veterans' Stadium), a "stadium committee" was created to develop general operating policies, design the stadium, receive and review all major bids, and award construction contracts. The position of "stadium coordinator" was also created; and, as conceived, the person holding that position was to be the "executive director" for the stadium committee. Harry Blatstein was the first person to hold that position. As such he was a "liaison"

[ 231 Pa. Super. Page 312]

    between the contractors and the stadium committee, forwarding reports and recommendations to the Committee for its action, and providing information to prospective bidders as to the nature of the work required, and so forth. His relationship with the committee was advisory, however, and he had no vote in the ultimate determination of contract awards.

In this capacity he was in contact with the two principal bidders on the contract for installing the seats in the stadium, American Seating Company of Grand Rapids, Michigan ("Seating") and the American Desk Company of Temple, Texas ("Desk"). Both "Seating" and "Desk" submitted bids in accordance with the specifications drawn up by the Committee. While both bids were in excess of 1.4 million dollars, Desk had underbid Seating by approximately $65,000. This revelation left the stadium committee with only two choices under Section 8-200 (2) (b) of the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter: it could accept Desk's bid on the contract; or, if it were in the city's best interests to do so, it could reject all bids and declare the bidding reopened.

The basis of the charges against Mr. Blatstein was a conversation which took place roughly one month after the seating-contract bids were opened in August of 1968. The principals in that conversation were Blatstein and one John Sherry, then sales manager for "Seating," the company which had submitted the higher bid. The substance of that discussion, which was one of many between Sherry and Blatstein as part of Sherry's intense efforts to secure the lucrative contract for his company, was provided at the trial by Mr. Sherry: "Q. Now during the period from August 19, 1968, until October or any time thereafter, really, ...


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