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Commonwealth v. Scatena

ELR Citation: 16 ELR 20239
Nos. No. 173, 498 A.2d 1314/(Pa., 09/25/1985)

The court holds that defendants were properly convicted of the Model Penal Code felony of risking a catastrophe on evidence that they discharged large quantities of hazardous wastes into an abandoned mine that drained into a major public water supply. The court holds that to be guilty of the offense, the defendants merely must have created a risk of widespread injury or damage, not actual harm. Proof of pollution of a major public water source by enormous quantities of hazardous waste is, as a matter of law, sufficient to establish a violation. The fact that government action contained much of the pollution is irrelevant. The discharge of the wastes exhibits a conscious disregard of a substantial, unjustifiable risk to human health and the environment, and the prosecution did not need to introduce evidence on the precise degree of risk.

A dissent would reverse the conviction for failure to prove that the defendants' actions foreseeably put the public in jeopardy of catastrophic harm.

Counsel for Appellant
Keith Welks, Ass't Attorney General
K. Douglas Daniel, Deputy Attorney General
Strawberry Square, 16th Fl., Harrisburg PA 17120
(717) 787-3391

Counsel for Appellee
William A. Degilio
858 United Penn. Bank Bldg., 8 W. Market St., Wilkes-Barre PA 18701
(717) 823-5113

Lawrence M. MacDonald
O'Connor, McCormick & MacDonald
832 United Penn. Bank Bldg., 8 W. Market St., Wilkes-Barre PA 18701
(717) 822-4400

Before NIX, C.J., and LARSEN, FLAHERTY, McDERMOTT, HUTCHINSON, ZAPPALA, and PAPADAKOS, JJ.

FLAHERTY, J., filed a dissenting opinion in which NIX, C.J., and ZAPPALA, J., joined.