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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. JONAS HUGHES (03/09/79)

decided: March 9, 1979.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
JONAS HUGHES, A/K/A JAMES HUGHES, APPELLANT



No. 2469 October Term, 1977, Appeal from Judgment of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County, Criminal Division, as of Nos. 4270 and 5326 September Term, 1976.

COUNSEL

Robert F. Pappano, Assistant Public Defender, Chester, for appellant.

Frank T. Hazel, District Attorney, Media, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Jacobs, President Judge, and Hoffman, Cercone, Price, Van der Voort, Spaeth and Hester, JJ. Jacobs, former President Judge and Hoffman, J., did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case.

Author: Cercone

[ 264 Pa. Super. Page 120]

Appellant was convicted following a jury trial of rape, kidnapping, unlawful restraint, terroristic threats and possession of instruments of a crime. On appeal, appellant claims that the evidence was insufficient to support the definition of the statutory crime of kidnapping and that the trial court abused its discretion in refusing the appellant's

[ 264 Pa. Super. Page 121]

    request at trial for a continuance. We disagree and affirm the conviction.

The facts, taken in a light most favorable to the Commonwealth, the verdict winner, Commonwealth v. Bastone, 466 Pa. 548, 353 A.2d 827 (1976), are essentially as follows. On August 11, 1976, Cynthia Lee Helfrich drove Howard Harrison to Media, Pennsylvania for an appointment with his attorney. Arriving early before the law offices opened, the two waited outside on a public bench. While they were waiting, appellant approached them and attempted to engage them in conversation. When appellant's conversation was not encouraged, he left. Mr. Harrison then went to his attorney's office to keep the scheduled appointment. Ms. Helfrich did not accompany Mr. Harrison into the office building because she was casually dressed and without shoes. Once Ms. Helfrich was alone, appellant returned, sat beside her and resumed his one-sided conversation. Appellant asked Ms. Helfrich if she wanted to go for a ride or smoke marijuana with him. When Ms. Helfrich refused, appellant left. Minutes later, the appellant returned, placed a sharp kitchen knife to her throat and stated "I think you are going for a ride." Appellant forced Ms. Helfrich to walk to his car one and one-half blocks away and threatened to kill her if she resisted. Once in the car, he drove around the Media area in a reckless manner for approximately two miles and stopped his car in an abandoned lot surrounded by trees. He then forced Ms. Helfrich into the wooded area where he raped her. He then returned her to a place near the attorney's office and fled. The abduction occupied somewhat less than thirty minutes.

The statutory crime of kidnapping is defined in 18 Pa.C.S.A. ยง 2901 in pertinent part as follows: "A person is guilty of kidnapping if he unlawfully removes another a substantial distance under the circumstances from the place where he is found, or if he unlawfully confines another for a substantial period in a place of isolation, with any of the following intentions: . . . (2) to facilitate commission of any felony or flight thereafter." Appellant contends that

[ 264 Pa. Super. Page 122]

    the jury was unable to conclude as a matter of law that the victim was removed a "substantial distance under the circumstances" or "confine[d] . . . for a substantial period." Appellant focuses in on the word "substantial" and asserts that two miles and thirty minutes is not "substantial" within the statutory framework.

In attempting to ascertain the legislative meaning of the word "substantial," we find that legal authority is sparse. Two cases and no legislative history in this jurisdiction offer little guidance. In Commonwealth v. Ruehling, 232 Pa. Super. 378, 334 A.2d 702 (1975), this court held that thirty miles was a "substantial distance." In Commonwealth v. Larry, 467 Pa. 501, 359 A.2d 388 (1976), the defendant forcefully abducted the victim from her home one night after stabbing her three times. The defendant delivered the victim to the hospital the following morning when she was pronounced dead. At trial in Commonwealth v. Larry, supra, a medical examiner testified that the victim suffered numerous blows with a blunt instrument in addition to the three knife wounds. The Supreme Court held that the evidence was sufficient to sustain a conviction of criminal homicide which occurred during the perpetration of a kidnapping. ...


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