F. Emmett Fitzpatrick, Dist. Atty., Steven H. Goldblatt, Asst. Dist. Atty., Chief, Appeals Div., Deborah Glass, Philadelphia, for appellant.
John W. Packel, Asst. Defender, Chief, Appeals Div., for appellee.
Jones, C. J., and Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Pomeroy, J., filed a concurring opinion. Roberts and Nix, JJ., concur in the result. Manderino, J., filed a dissenting opinion.
Tyrone Williams was convicted in a non-jury trial of receiving stolen property.*fn1 Post-verdict motions were
denied and Williams appealed. The Superior Court in reversing the conviction, Commonwealth v. Williams, 233 Pa. Super. 449, 336 A.2d 411 (1975), ruled that insufficient evidence was introduced at trial to establish the element of guilty knowledge necessary to sustain such a conviction. In doing so, the Superior Court held that this Court's decision in Commonwealth v. Henderson, 451 Pa. 452, 304 A.2d 154 (1973), was controlling.*fn2 The Commonwealth petitioned for allowance of appeal and we granted the petition and now reverse.
The Commonwealth's evidence may be summarized thusly:
R. Thomas Crawford parked his 1973 Ford LTD automobile in a garage at 13th and Walnut Streets in Philadelphia on August 30, 1973 at 5:00 p. m. On August 31, 1973 Crawford returned to the garage and discovered his automobile was missing. The automobile had a temporary Pennsylvania license plate when Crawford parked it.
On September 11, 1973, at approximately 3:20 p. m., a police officer observed an automobile, occupied by an individual later identified as Williams, parked "catercorner" at 60th and Haverford Avenue in Philadelphia. The officer noted a metal license plate on the automobile as having the number 2Y9666. He compared the number to a "hot sheet" or list of stolen license plates. He found the number there listed. The officer turned his unmarked vehicle around and began to return to the corner where he had observed the automobile. As he was doing so, he observed Williams begin to drive west on Haverford from 60th Street. Williams began passing other traffic and "at 61st and Haverford he cut through a gas
station lot . . . ." Williams was then forced to halt the automobile because of traffic on 61st Street. The officer approached the automobile and ordered Williams out of the vehicle.
Following a request by the officer, Williams was unable to produce an operator's license, title, or registration card. The officer then checked the serial number of the car and learned it was stolen from Crawford on either August 30 or 31, 1973. Moreover, the Commonwealth established that Williams had not been given permission by Crawford or the lot attendant to use the automobile. Further Crawford testified that although the automobile was "new" when it was stolen, it was damaged when returned to him by the police. The damage included a burn on the seat cover, the wires were pulled out from underneath the dash, the knobs were removed from the radio, the radio was loose (Crawford opined these factors seemed to indicate an attempt to remove the radio), and the front and rear bumpers were damaged.
Based on these facts Williams was convicted of receiving stolen goods, i. e., the automobile. Because the Superior Court viewed the evidence as establishing possession under circumstances similar to Commonwealth v. Henderson, supra, it reversed the conviction reasoning that an inference of guilty knowledge could not be drawn from such possession. ...