Sometimes it can be difficult to persuade clients that the remedies arising from the Protection from Abuse statute can be criminal and quite serious. The ruling on Tuesday in Segreaves v. Segreaves hammers home the point.

Olga and Ross Seagraves have been in abuse court since 2016. The order was extended by agreement in 2019. The problem in their case is that Mr. Seagraves can’t seem to resist the temptation to write offensive and threatening communications to his former spouse and their children despite an explicit NO CONTACT prohibition. The defendant had already been found guilty of 10 counts of contempt and seen that conviction affirmed at 888 EDA 2021 (Dec 17, 2021). He had also pleaded to criminal stalking in 2018 based upon serial text communications 20 or more times per day for 18 days. Even a six month contempt sentence of incarceration did not appear to check the defendant’s conduct.

In the most recent go round, the petitioner offered 50 written communications ranging from threats of suicide to threats to have fellow inmates do the victim harm. After a remote hearing the trial court found defendant guilty of 46 counts of contempt of the abuse order.

The core of the appeal relates to what is a remarkably lengthy sentence. The defendant suggests that his mental disorders prevent him from controlling his behavior. Neither the trial nor the appeals court was having it. The order was consistently violated without regard to whether the defendant was imprisoned. He directly sought to manipulate his 10 and 13 year old children by writing frightening notes to them. He enlisted others to write letters on his behalf and claimed to have had no awareness of that fact. The prior conviction and sentence had also done nothing to abate his insistence upon harassing his former wife and children by communication. The sentences were affirmed. Violation of a Protection from Abuse order is a misdemeanor of the first degree and punishable by up to 6 months in prison for each violation. The trial court sentenced incarceration on 25 of the charges and probation on the others.  18 Pa.C.S. 4955. What practitioners need to realize is that each communication was treated as a separate offense.

Segreaves v Segreaves,  1716 & 1717 EDA 2021 (Pa. Super. 5/3/22)