Tamaqua man loses state court appeal
A Tamaqua man lost his appeal before the Pennsylvania Superior Court from a summary conviction of defiant trespass on property of a fast-food restaurant in Tamaqua.
Robert J. Knepper, 49, of 253 Brown St., appealed the judgment of a Schuylkill County judge, who upheld Knepper's conviction by a district judge of the defiant trespass charge. The higher court handed down a decision upholding the rulings by the district and county courts.
A summarized history of the events are that Knepper had a confrontation with Janet Sillers in the Burger King restaurant, after which he followed her to a parking lot at a Turkey Hill convenience store where he threatened to kill her. She informed him he was not to enter the restaurant in the future. The regional management of the restaurant upheld her decision.
On Aug. 15, 2005, at 9 p.m. Knepper came to the drive-through window of the restaurant and was reminded by Sillers he was banned from the establishment. He left but returned later and placed an order with a food server who was not aware of the ban. When Sillers saw him she called police, who cited him as a defiant trespasser, a summary offense.
Knepper failed to respond to the summons to appear before the district magistrate court and a bench warrant was issued. The high court notes that the Tamaqua police contacted Knepper on a number of occasions to inform him of the bench warrant and to encourage him to voluntarily go before the magistrate.
At the hearing in the county court the chief of police testified that it was their policy not to take persons into custody for bench warrants issued in summary cases, but to notify the party of the existing bench warrant so they can clear it themselves.
Knepper appealed that decision to the county court, asking the court to dismiss the charges under a criminal rule procedure granting him a speedy trial. After hearing Knepper's argument the court dismissed his appeal and he appealed the decision to the state court.
The higher court ruled that the criminal rule Knepper cited applied to court cases which guarantee a speedy trial in 365 days and a summary charge does not fall under that rule.