Marshall Pappert waged a passionate, perhaps slightly obsessive, campaign of protest letter writing to Bridgeville, Pa. politicians and city officials to express his opposition to concrete plant. The city has responded, by arresting him, for criminally harassing the government.
ABC News Pittsburg reports: A Bridgeville man who was arrested and convicted after making repeated complaints to his local government took his appeal to one of Pennsylvania’s highest courts on Tuesday.Team 4 investigative reporter Jim Parsons, who originally broke the story, was in Superior Court for the arguments. At issue: How many letters to borough officials does it take to constitute a crime?
Marshall Pappert freely admits that when you add up all of the letters he has written to government officials — and include the copies of those letters he has sent to other public officials — the number of letters is about 350.While waiting for his case to be called, Pappert made no apologies for his letter-writing campaign to Bridgeville Borough.
“I did what any citizen should do when you see something that’s unhealthy to the community,” Pappert said.Pappert lives across Union Street from a Bridgeville concrete plant. The dust, the noise, the idling diesel trucks all combined to cause him to complain to the borough. He wrote letter after letter — hundreds of them — and he left voice mail messages for the borough manager.In one message, Pappert said, “I’m asking you as a Bridgeville resident of 56 years to resign and get off of your position. Do the right thing.”Instead, Pappert got arrested on a harassment charge and was convicted.At Tuesday’s appeal hearing, Assistant District Attorney Peggy Ivory told the court that Pappert “clearly crossed the line to a course of conduct designed to harass” the borough manager.Ivory declined an interview with Team 4 on Tuesday.”We really maintain that this is about the First Amendment and that public officials just have to tolerate it,” said Bruce Boni, an attorney from the American Civil Liberties Union who’s representing Pappert.Bridgeville Councilman Pat DeBlasio said he doesn’t just tolerate Pappert’s actions, he embraces them.”We go to Memorial Day and stand there and listen to ‘Taps’ and honor the people who died. Well, they didn’t die so we could have five different choices of breakfast cereal. They sacrificed their lives so that you have the right to complain when you see something wrong,” DeBlasio said.”If you can’t talk and do what I did to your government, what can you do? What are they going to do next to you?” Pappert said.A decision on whether to overturn Pappert’s criminal conviction is not expected until sometime in the summer.Team 4 also learned on Tuesday that Ed Bogats — who arrested Pappert — submitted his resignation as Bridgeville police chief last month.The borough council unanimously accepted Bogats’ resignation. DeBlasio said Bogats cited medical reasons.Bogats did not return Team 4’s call to his home on Tuesday.
Thanks to Jonathan TurleyPhil Leggiere