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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. CHARLES J. LAFFERTY (03/21/80)

filed: March 21, 1980.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA,
v.
CHARLES J. LAFFERTY, APPELLANT



No. 2503 October Term, 1978, Interlocutory Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division, Criminal Section of Philadelphia County, Imposed on Information No. 1499, August Session, 1977, Denying a Motion in Arrest of Judgment.

COUNSEL

Ronald F. Kidd, Philadelphia, for appellant.

Sheldon Finkelstein, Assistant District Attorney, Philadelphia, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Cercone, President Judge, and Watkins and Hoffman, JJ.

Author: Watkins

[ 276 Pa. Super. Page 402]

This is an appeal from the order of the Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division, Criminal Section, of Philadelphia County, by the defendant-appellant, Charles J. Lafferty, after conviction by a jury on charges of perjury. The defendant filed post-verdict motions in arrest of judgment and for a new trial. On September 13, 1978, the court below granted defendant's motion for a new trial on the ground that the prosecutor made inflammatory, improper and prejudicial remarks to the jury during his summation. Defendant now appeals the trial court's denial of his motion in arrest of judgment.*fn1

Defendant and his brother were equal partners in Pennsylvania Machine Works, a Philadelphia company, which manufactured forged steel fittings for industrial use. This process involved the use of several large machines. On February 5, 1970, the property of defendant's company was condemned by the Philadelphia School District and the parties could not agree on a price to be paid by the condemnor for the property taken via the condemnation. Ultimately the matter of just compensation for the taking was tried civilly before a jury. This trial took place on June 17, 1974. The defendant testified at the trial that he had made

[ 276 Pa. Super. Page 403]

    modifications to his large machines which rendered them immovable without risk of severe damage to them. The jury then awarded defendant compensation for the value of the machines in the amount of $700,000. The value of the real estate was determined to be $250,000 by the jury. The Philadelphia School District subsequently moved for a new trial claiming, inter alia, that "after-discovered evidence" which proved that defendant had lied about alterations having been made to the machinery warranted a new trial. This motion was denied by the court below on September 11, 1975 and the denial was affirmed by the Commonwealth Court on November 16, 1977. Petition for Allocatur to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania was denied by the Supreme Court on November 17, 1977 and a Petition for Re-Hearing was denied by the Supreme Court on August 3, 1978.

On June 28, 1977, defendant was charged with perjury in the instant proceeding. The criminal complaint charged that he uttered a false statement under oath when he testified at the eminent domain trial that the machinery in question could not be moved without great risk of damage to it due to the fact that the machines had been rebuilt and altered in place in the plant. Defendant claims that his motion for arrest of judgment should have been granted because the evidence adduced at his perjury trial was insufficient to sustain the charge and because there existed a fatal variance between the charges in the information and the proof presented against defendant at his trial.

To understand this case it is necessary to understand the Assembled Economic Unit Doctrine as it applies to condemnation cases. Generally, when a condemnation of someone's property takes place the property owner is entitled to be compensated for the real estate appropriated by the governmental body, but he is not entitled to compensation for personal property because that can be moved to a new location and therefore has not been "condemned". The Assembled Economic Unit Doctrine is an exception to the general rule. Under that doctrine a condemnee is entitled to compensation for the value of personal property such as

[ 276 Pa. Super. Page 404]

    machinery if he can show that the machines cannot be moved to a new location without significant damage to them or if he can prove that the building and machinery are a unique situation which could not be duplicated by disassembling the machinery and reassembling it at another location. Singer v. Oil City Redevelopment Authority, 437 Pa. 55, 261 A.2d 594 (1970). It is, therefore, apparent that the question as to whether an identifiable "economic unit" consisting of machinery or other assets can be reconstructed elsewhere has a significant bearing on all condemnation cases because if it cannot be moved elsewhere then ...


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