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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. ROLAND HART (06/05/89)

filed: June 5, 1989.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLANT,
v.
ROLAND HART, APPELLEE



Appeal from the Order entered April 5, 1988, in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Criminal, No. 8800-3785, M.C. No. 8706-3794.

COUNSEL

Linda Perkins, Assistant District Attorney, Philadelphia, for Com., appellant.

Gwendolyn Bright, Assistant Public Defender, Philadelphia, for appellee.

Cavanaugh, Olszewski and Hoffman, JJ.

Author: Olszewski

[ 384 Pa. Super. Page 574]

This is an appeal from the order of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County granting appellee's writ of certiorari and vacating his conviction for harassment by communication. On appeal, the Commonwealth argues that the evidence presented was sufficient to establish appellee's guilt. For the foregoing reasons, we vacate the order of the trial court and reinstate the judgment of sentence.

On June 26, 1987, at approximately 7:30 a.m., Joseph Brock, President of Local 830 of the Teamsters Union, listened to four or five consecutive telephone calls from appellee. The calls had been recorded on the union's answering machine located in its office in the City of Philadelphia. The messages consisted of appellee's use of obscene language, coupled with threats to blow up the union headquarters. Appellee also specifically threatened to kill Mr. Sid Marrama, the secretary/treasurer for the union, his family, and union employees.

Appellee was tried in the Municipal Court of Philadelphia for the crimes of terroristic threats*fn1 and harassment by communication.*fn2 After a finding of guilt as to the harassment by communication charge, appellee was sentenced to

[ 384 Pa. Super. Page 575]

    fines and costs totaling $125.00. Appellee then filed a petition for a writ of certiorari in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, alleging that the evidence was insufficient to support the guilty verdict. The court, without hearing argument, granted the writ and vacated appellee's conviction. After unsucessfully seeking reconsideration, the Commonwealth filed the instant appeal.

Appellant raises one issue for our review: whether sufficient evidence was introduced to support a finding of guilt for the crime of harassment by communication. The Commonwealth argues that the acts of appellee in making five consecutive phone calls to union headquarters and threatening to blow up the building and kill union employees and officials fall within the confines of § 5504. According to the Commonwealth, appellee demonstrated his obvious intent to both harass and terrorize the listener; the mere fact that the phone calls were intercepted by an answering machine prior to being heard by the witness was irrelevant.

Appellee counters that he did not act with the statutorily required "intent to harass." He claims that the phone calls were made for a legitimate purpose -- to register a complaint about his recent loss of employment and the union's apparent failure to help him find other work.

In its opinion, the trial court posits that § 5504 was not intended to prohibit the type of conduct exhibited by appellee. According to the court, this section was intended to prohibit conduct of a continuing nature of the type the Commonwealth unsucessfully tried to prove.*fn3 In making this conclusion, the court found guidance in the harassment provisions of 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 2709.*fn4 Moreover, the trial court ...


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