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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. RICHARD M. MOHN (12/29/81)

December 29, 1981

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLEE
v.
RICHARD M. MOHN, APPELLANT



No. 96 Harrisburg, 1980, Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence dated April 14, 1980, Court of Common Pleas, Criminal Division, Dauphin County, 1979, Nos. 1782, 1782A.

Before Price, Johnson and Shertz, JJ. Shertz, J. concurs in the result. Price, J. did not participate in the consideration or disposition of this case.

Per Curiam:

The opinion and order dated April 8, 1980, denying the first motion for a new trial is affirmed on the comprehensive opinion of Judge Dowling.

The judgment of sentence dated April 14, 1980, and the denial on August 13, 1980 of the subsequent motion for a new trial based on after-discovered evidence, are affirmed.

SHERTZ, J. concurs in the result.

PRICE, J. did not participate in the consideration or disposition of this case.

No. 96 Harrisburg 1980

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Richard M. Mohn

In the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County, Pennsylvania Nos. 1782, 1782(a) C.D. 1979 Charges: Arson, Criminal Conspiracy

BY THE COURT:

Defendant heatedly contends that his convictions of arson and conspiracy be set aside and he be awarded a new trial. He has fired six volleys in an attempt to breach the jury's verdict.

The evidence when viewed through the eyes of the verdict winner engulf Richard Mohn in this conflagration as surely as did the flames consume his property. In the early evening of September 17, 1979, units of the Harrisburg Fire Department were called to a general alarm blaze at 1317 Liberty Street, an unoccupied two-story frame structure. Before the fire could be brought under control, the occupied homes at 1315 and 1319 Liberty Street were totally destroyed and houses at 1313 and 1321 Liberty Street were partially affected by the blaze.*fn1 One Daniel Davenport, who was with his wife and sons ages 3 and 6 at 1319 Liberty Street, testified that he heard an explosion in the building next to his and, on running from his home, saw that the house at 1317 was completely engulfed in flames. A brother, James Davenport, who was in the area heard the explosion and observed a man running out the back door with his clothing on fire. Approximately forty-five minutes later one Mikel Vereen was admitted to the Polyclinic Medical Center emergency room with burns over 65% of his body. Two days later, Vereen gave a statement to the State Police and City Fire Marshall implicating himself in setting the fire. He also stated that he had met a person known only to him as "Jim" in an uptown bar two nights before the fire and that "Jim" recruited him to burn the property at 1317 Liberty Street on behalf of his employer, a Mr. Mohn.

"Jim" was later identified by the police as one James Daron who was arrested on October 11, 1979 for his participation in this incident. On the day following his arrest, Daron gave a complete statement to the police telling of his employment by the defendant as a general handyman. Daron testified that a few weeks before the fire he had been solicited by Mohn to burn the building at 1317 Liberty. He also indicated that about two weeks prior to the fire he and Mohn had gone to the property to remove a stove, banister, and interior door which were in good condition. The stove was replaced with one from another property which was in poor condition. On the day of the fire he met with Mohn at a local restaurant to advise him that another individual had been hired to torch the building and that he required six hundred ($600) dollars for the job. Mohn then entered National Central Bank at 13th and Derry Streets returning with six-one hundred dollar bills which he gave to Daron. Daron then recounted that he met Vereen uptown and that the two of them went out to the hill section of the city where they purchased gasoline and proceeded to 1317 Liberty Street. There gasoline was spread throughout the house and ignited. The latter fact was confirmed by two expert witnesses - Fire Marshall Elmer W. Shover and Cpl. William Sweet - who testified that in their opinion the fire was of incendiary origin having been accelerated by a flammable liquid which was spread throughout the building.

Other Commonwealth witnesses established that Mohn had purchased the property about a year before the fire as one in a group of investment properties most of which were leased through the Harrisbury Housing Authority and insured through the Insurance Placement Facility of Pennsylvania. Mr. Franklin Bornman of the Harrisburg Housing Authority testified that the property at 1317 Liberty Street had been leased through Section 23 of the Housing Act until June 30, 1979. On that date the Authority notified Mohn that the ...


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