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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. LOIS ELLA RIDGELY (11/22/76)

decided: November 22, 1976.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLEE,
v.
LOIS ELLA RIDGELY, APPELLANT



Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, Criminal Division at No. 4568A of 1974. No. 120 April Term, 1976.

COUNSEL

John J. Dean, Anthony J. Lalama, Pittsburgh, for appellant.

John J. Hickton, Dist. Atty., Robert L. Eberhardt, Louis R. Paulick, Asst. Dist. Attys., Pittsburgh, for appellee.

Watkins, President Judge, and Jacobs, Hoffman, Cercone, Price and Van der Voort, JJ. Spaeth, J., absent.

Author: Cercone

[ 243 Pa. Super. Page 400]

Appellant, Lois Ella Ridgely, was tried on two indictments arising out of a series of thefts of credit cards, check books and identification cards from patrons of the Monroeville European Health Spa in the Pittsburgh area. These items were used to make unlawful purchases at stores in the Monroeville area. In a non-jury trial she was found not guilty on the first indictment charges, but guilty on the second indictment charge of criminal conspiracy with a Connie Peppetti. She raises two issues on appeal.

First, appellant contends the evidence was insufficient to sustain her conviction for criminal conspiracy. The main element of criminal conspiracy is the agreement between two or more persons to commit a crime or agreement by a person to aid another in planning a crime. Act of December 6, 1972, P.L. 1482, No. 334, ยง 1, 18 P.C.S. 903. When determining the sufficiency of the evidence, the standard is whether accepting as true all the Commonwealth's evidence and the reasonable inferences from the evidence upon which the fact finder could base a verdict, such evidence and inferences are sufficient in law to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Commonwealth v. Waters, 463 Pa. 465, 345 A.2d 613 (1975).

On the evenings of April 15 and April 19, 1974, several patrons of the European Health Spa discovered that, while they were using the Spa facilities, someone had gone into their lockers and had taken their purses or property from their purses. Credit cards, checks, identification and cash were taken. Unauthorized purchases were made with the stolen property at stores in the Monroeville area.

In essence, Connie Peppetti, the co-conspirator, testified to appellant's participation in planning and committing the thefts and using the stolen property to make

[ 243 Pa. Super. Page 401]

    purchases. One of the victims testified to seeing appellant and Connie Peppetti together in the locker room on April 19, 1974. Neither appellant nor Connie Peppetti was a member of the Spa. They used the membership card of appellant's sister to gain admittance. On April 19, 1974, Connie Peppetti left appellant at the Spa for a few hours returning to pick up appellant. Appellant and Connie Peppetti were leaving the parking lot in Connie Peppetti's car when they were arrested. The stolen property was found in Connie Peppetti's possession.

Testifying on her own behalf, appellant admitted being in the Spa with Connie Peppetti on both nights and accompanying her, on April 15, to the Monroeville Mall where some of the purchases were made. Appellant denied any participation or agreement to participate in the thefts and gave a different explanation of her activities and presence with Connie Peppetti at the relevant times.

Appellant claims her mere presence with Connie Peppetti at the relevant times, with the uncorroborated testimony of a co-conspirator providing the only proof of her participation, is not enough to prove her participation and sustain the conviction. A conviction on a charge of criminal conspiracy may be sustained without direct or explicit proof of an unlawful agreement. The conduct of the parties and the circumstances surrounding their activities may support the inference that ...


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