In a bizarre case, Bridgeville Borough resident has been convicted for repeatedly writing and calling his elected officials to complain about their lack of effort to relieve a local nuisance. If you count copies sent to some officers, Marshall Pappert sent around 350 and was arrested for criminal harassment. It is a good thing that Bridgeville prosecutors and courts did not exist when Thomas Paine was doing his incessant complaining about his government.
Pappert was complaining about a Bridgeville concrete plant owned by Silhol Builders Supply. His letters and voice mails were neither threatening nor rude. They would say things like “I’m asking you as a Bridgeville resident of 56 years to resign and get off of your position. Do the right thing.”
He is now appealing. I cannot understand how any judge would uphold an arrest in such a case, let alone a conviction. A citizen has a constitutional right to petition or complain to his government. Pappert was actually representing a large group of citizens who appointed him as their representative with the officials, here. July 16, 2008 hearing, Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas Judge Robert Gallo convicted him and ignored overwhelming constitutional problems of free speech, void for vagueness, and other problems. Gallo would have hated Thomas Paine, who was a true pain with his incessant pamphlets and complaints. Not only did Gallo rule that Pappert should have known that Bridgeville Borough Manager Lori Collins did not have authority to act on his complaints but barred him from contacting her for 90 days on any subject.
McGraw ‘s decision in the case is an outrage as is the decision of the prosecutors to take the case.
Nevertheless, Assistant District Attorney Peggy Ivory insists that Pappert “clearly crossed the line to a course of conduct designed to harass” the borough manager.
In the meantime, Bridgeville police chief Ed Bogats — who arrested Pappert — submitted his resignation last month.
The ACLU has taken up Pappert’s case, here.
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