No. 529 April Term, 1978, Appeal from the Opinion and Order dated December 20, 1977 granting Motion in Arrest of Judgment in the Court of Common Pleas of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, Criminal Division at No. 1190 July Term, 1976.
James J. Conte, Assistant District Attorney, Greensburg, for Commonwealth, appellant.
Ronald C. Makoski, Greensburg, for appellee.
Price, Hester and Watkins, JJ.
[ 262 Pa. Super. Page 359]
Following a jury trial on April 18-19, 1977, appellee William M. Glendening was found guilty of criminal conspiracy and not guilty of theft by deception. The court thereafter arrested judgment on the conspiracy count, finding the verdicts inconsistent, and ordered appellee discharged. This appeal by the Commonwealth followed. For the reasons which follow, we reverse and remand.
Where the question is purely one of law, the Commonwealth may appeal from an adverse ruling in a criminal case. Commonwealth v. Blevins, 453 Pa. 481, 309 A.2d 421 (1973); Commonwealth v. Mader, 253 Pa. Super. 58, 384 A.2d 974 (1978). Since the propriety of the jury's verdict is a pure question of law, this appeal is properly before us.
A brief recitation of the relevant facts will aid in understanding the issues. The charge against appellee was essentially that he defrauded his car insurance company of some $3,700.00. Facts adduced through the testimony of appellee's convicted co-conspirators Barry MacDonald and Gerald Mannerino*fn1 established that in 1973, appellee owned a 1967 red Corvette convertible, partially damaged. MacDonald and Mannerino were proprietors of an auto body shop in Greensburg and were in possession of a 1967 coupe which appellee was very interested in obtaining. Co-conspirators MacDonald and Mannerino sold appellee a 1971 Corvette in exchange for his convertible and $1,500.00 in cash.*fn2 Pursuant to the scheme, appellee used the 1971 Corvette until
[ 262 Pa. Super. Page 360]
April, 1974. At that time, he delivered the car to his co-conspirators who proceeded to strip the car of its motor, transmission, the front end, radio, two roof panels, and parts of the interior. They then towed the vehicle to a strip mine in Findlay Township and abandoned it.
Meanwhile, again according to plan, appellee reported the car stolen on April 12, 1974 and the next day it was recovered by the Findlay Township police. Arrangements were made to have the vehicle towed to appellee's home in Greensburg. Shortly thereafter, he filed a loss claim with his insurance company, Motors Insurance. After due investigation by an adjuster, Motors approved the claim, issuing a check to appellee in the amount of $3,752.30.*fn3 Motors "bid out" the Corvette for salvage and received two bids: one from MacDonald for $600 and one from a local Chevrolet dealer for $275. The car was sold to MacDonald on May 30, 1974. The plot was to be consummated when appellee used the insurance money to buy the "mint condition" 1967 coupe from MacDonald and Mannerino. It is unclear from the record whether this last transaction ever occurred and it appears very little of the insurance money was ever received by MacDonald or Mannerino for their part in the scheme.
After deliberating 3 1/2 hours, the jury found appellee not guilty of theft by deception but guilty of conspiracy to commit theft by deception. In its decision granting appellee's motion for arrest of judgment, the court reasoned that the jury, in acquitting appellee of theft by deception, stated "in effect that [appellee] has committed no overt act, an essential ingredient to a finding of guilty of Conspiracy." Opinion at 3. Finding the verdicts logically inconsistent, the court arrested judgment.
It is firmly established in this Commonwealth that consistency in a verdict in a criminal case is not necessary and that inconsistency is not a ground for reversal. ...