Concealment of Child • Corruption of Minors • Sufficiency of Evidence

Commonwealth v. Slocum, PICS Case No. 14-0329 (Pa. Super. Feb. 21, 2014) Platt, J. (31 pages).

Evidence was sufficient to sustain convictions of concealment of child where appellant did not send child home upon parent’s request, and of corruption of a minor where appellant’s actions were of a type that would offend “the common sense of the community.” Affirmed.

Appellant, a 59-year-old Catholic priest, lived in the rectory across the street from J.H. (a minor). When J.H. turned 13, he began spending increasing amounts of time in the rectory, almost daily, including some overnight visits. J.H.’s mother, who worked until eight every evening was pleased, at first, that J.H. had a place to go after school.

As time progressed and appellant persisted in contacting J.H., mother called the police. Appellant gave police a lengthy statement, admittedly allowing J.H. in his residence, concealing his whereabouts from his mother and aiding J.H. in deceiving his mother.

A jury convicted appellant of concealing the whereabouts of a child and corruption of minors. The trial court sentenced appellant to two years of probation.

On appeal, appellant argued that the evidence was insufficient to sustain either the concealment conviction—there was no evi-dence that appellant removed J.H. from his residence or failed to return him home—or the corruption conviction because there was no proof appellant encouraged or enticed J.H. to disobey his parent. The Superior Court affirmed.

The crime of concealment occurs when a person “removes” a child from home with intent to conceal the child’s whereabouts from the child’s parent. See 18 Pa.C.S. §2909. The term “remove” includes those instances in which a person fails to return a child home when child’s parent has a reasonable expectation that the person will do so.

Here, evidence established that mother wrote a letter to appellant, specifically informing him that J.H. was not allowed at the rectory and that appellant should call her for confirmation if J.H. told him otherwise. In his statement to police, appellant admitted that, after he received the letter and during the time that J.H. was supposed to go to his grandparents’ home after school, J.H. came to the rectory and appellant did not call mother or send J.H. home. This evidence sufficiently supports a finding that mother had a reasonable expectation that appellant would return J.H. to his place of residence and that appellant failed to do so.

The evidence also was sufficient to sustain the corruption conviction. As relevant here, an individual commits the crime of corruption of minors when by any act the individual corrupts or tends to corrupt the morals of any minor. See 18 Pa.C.S. §6301.

Appellant argued that, while his actions may have been inappropriate, there was no evidence that he attempted to encourage J.H. to commit any crime, or act which the statute was designed to prohibit. However, it is not necessary that the minor be adjudicated delinquent as a result of offender’s act, i.e., it is not necessary to prove that a minor’s morals were actually corrupted. See Commonwealth v. Mumma, 414 A.2d 1026, 1030 (Pa. 1980). Actions that tend to corrupt the morals of a minor are those that “would offend the common sense of the community and the sense of decency, propriety and morality which most people entertain.” See Commonwealth v. DeWalt, 752 A.2d 915, 918 (Pa. Super. 2000).

Here, the relevant charge of corrupting minors alleged appellant committed the offense by “enticing a 15-year-old juvenile male to disobey his parents through enticement and encouragement, knowing he was not permitted to do so.” Appellant’s conduct was not in dispute. The jury could properly decide that appellant’s actions were of a type that would offend “the common sense of the community.”