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COMMONWEALTH v. RUZA (12/22/75)

decided: December 22, 1975.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
RUZA, APPELLANT



Appeal from judgment of sentence of Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County, Sept. T., 1974, Nos. 800 and 1081, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. John Ruza, Jr.

COUNSEL

Ernest Kardas, Assistant Public Defender, and Kenneth P. Barrow, Public Defender, for appellant.

Ralph B. D'Iorio, Assistant District Attorney, and Stephen J. McEwen, Jr., District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

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

Author: Hoffman

[ 238 Pa. Super. Page 10]

Counsel for appellant has alleged that the lower court erred in sentencing his client to a term of imprisonment, rather than ordering him committed to an outpatient mental health program. Subsequently, appellant filed a supplemental brief in which he contended that his attorney failed to raise specific issues that appellant had requested. He claims that because he was committed to a state mental health hospital when he pleaded guilty the court erred in accepting his plea. Because neither of these claims has merit, we affirm the judgment of sentence.

[ 238 Pa. Super. Page 11]

In July, 1974, appellant was separated from his wife and was feuding with her about visitation with their children. On July 26, he procured a can of gasoline and went to his wife's rented row home in Upper Darby, Delaware County. Once on the premises, he poured gasoline on the floor, on his wife's mattress, and in his wife's closet; he then ignited it. From there, he drove to his brother's home in Springfield, Delaware County. He poured gasoline on his brother's 1973 Chevrolet and set it on fire. Appellant's spree caused in excess of $3000 in damages.

Appellant was indicted for arson*fn1 and for criminal mischief.*fn2 On November 8, 1974, appellant was committed to Haverford State Hospital under § 408 of the Mental Health Act for sixty days. The commitment was extended for an additional ninety days. During the period of commitment, on January 24, 1975, the appellant pleaded guilty before the Honorable William Toal, Jr., of the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County. At that time, the court ordered a pre-sentence investigation. On April 18, 1975, appellant was sentenced to three and one-half to ten years' imprisonment on the arson charge and to a concurrent six to twelve months' term of imprisonment on the criminal mischief charge.

Counsel for appellant filed a Petition for Reconsideration of Sentence. A hearing was held before Judge Toal on May 16. Dr. Theodore J. Barry, Clinical Director and Director of Forensic Psychiatry at the Haverford Hospital, testified on appellant's behalf. The doctor stated that during appellant's commitment, he had shown encouraging progress. The treating psychiatrists had diagnosed appellant as suffering from a personality disorder and as lacking ability to mobilize internal controls. Appellant's poor impulse control indicated a likelihood of

[ 238 Pa. Super. Page 12]

    aggressive acting out under stress. At the same time, Dr. Barry believed that appellant exhibited motivation towards improvement and that he should be afforded the opportunity of continued treatment in a carefully supervised program of outpatient psychotherapy at a community mental health center. Thereafter, the lower court rejected appellant's ...


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