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COMMONWEALTH v. SCHNABEL (09/22/75)

decided: September 22, 1975.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
SCHNABEL, APPELLANT



Appeal from judgment of sentence of Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County, No. 829 of 1974, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Carl Schnabel.

COUNSEL

Peter A. Glascott, for appellant.

Peter F. Schenck, Assistant District Attorney, with him Stephen B. Harris, First Assistant District Attorney, and Kenneth G. Biehn, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Watkins, P. J., Jacobs, Hoffman, Cercone, Price, Van der Voort, and Spaeth, JJ. Opinion by Price, J.

Author: Price

[ 236 Pa. Super. Page 281]

The appellant, Carl Schnabel, appeals from his conviction of harassment.*fn1 We disagree with the Commonwealth's interpretation of the phrase "course of conduct" and will, therefore, reverse.

[ 236 Pa. Super. Page 282]

Appellant owned a large tract of land in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, which he had divided into lots of approximately 5,000 square feet. The lots were rented to people who constructed week-end or summer cottages on them. The complainant, David Jenkins, had rented one of these lots from August, 1961, until September, 1974, at an annual rental of $78. Despite a provision in the lease agreement which restricted use of the lots to vacationoriented activities, Jenkins and his family had been using the cottage as their full-time residence.

Many of the cottages on appellant's properties were not equipped with modern plumbing conveniences, and water was supplied to each of the cottages through plastic hoses. The hoses were owned and supplied by appellant, and the water came from a well on his property. The properties were drained by septic tanks, the usual arrangement calling for one septic tank for every pair of cottages.

The present prosecution resulted from appellant's severance of the hose that supplied Jenkins' cottage with water, on June 25, 1973. The testimony at the hearing de novo indicated that Jenkins believed appellant severed the hose because he (appellant) was angry with Jenkins for being an officer of the Cedar Valley Civic Association, an organization of the tenants on appellant's property. Appellant presented convincing evidence that he had severed the hose because Jenkins had permitted the water to run constantly, causing the septic tank to overflow. Appellant's other tenants complained to him about the overflowing tank, and he received at least two citations from the Bucks County Health Department.

There is no dispute that Jenkins' water supply was restored by the following week. During the interval when the water was shut off, Mr. Jenkins was able to obtain water from his neighbor, Mr. Francisco, whose water was also supplied by appellant.

[ 236 Pa. Super. Page 283]

The District Justice found appellant guilty of the statutory crime of harassment, and imposed a fine of $100 and costs. On appeal, and after a full hearing de novo, the court resolved all factual determinations as to motive and legitimacy of purpose against appellant, and reimposed the fine. Though we might reach a different factual determination were it our province to weight the facts, on this appeal, we must view the evidence in a ...


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