No. 1 March Term, 1978, Appeal, In Forma Pauperis, from the Judgment of Sentence in the Court of Common Pleas, Criminal Division, of the County of York, No. 551, 1976.
Robert B. Evanick, Assistant Public Defender, York, for appellant.
Sheryl A. Dorney, Assistant District Attorney, York, for Commonwealth, appellee.
Cercone, President Judge, and Wieand and Hoffman, JJ.
Appellant was found guilty of theft, 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 3921(a), and sentenced to serve one to three years imprisonment and to pay $100 restitution. On this direct appeal, appellant contends that the evidence was insufficient to convict him of theft and that the lower court erred in refusing to continue the case after his co-defendant, and potential witness, left the courtroom. We find no merit to appellant's contentions and, accordingly, affirm the judgment of sentence.
Viewed in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth, the following evidence was adduced at the joint jury trial of appellant and his co-defendant on August 23, 1976:
At 2:00 a. m. on May 1, 1976, a York police officer saw two males in jeans bend over the registration plate area of a Ford automobile which was parked in an alley. The officer could not see the men's facial features. The officer then saw the two men enter a 1965 Chevrolet parked nearby and drive away. The officer followed the Chevrolet in his unmarked patrol car, keeping the Chevrolet constantly in his sight. After a while the driver of the Chevrolet attempted to evade the officer by speeding up; after running a red light, the Chevrolet crashed into a building. The officer saw
the driver exit the car and apprehended him. In court, the officer identified the driver as appellant. The Chevrolet was later identified as one stolen sometime after 8:00 p. m. on April 30, 1976. The owner testified that he had left his car locked and had not given anyone permission to drive it. Appellant admitted being in the alleyway and in the Chevrolet but denied that he was the driver. He stated that his co-defendant, the other male in the car, was the driver and never told appellant that the car was stolen until the co-defendant began to evade the unmarked police car.
The Crimes Code defines theft of movable property as follows: "A person is guilty of theft if he unlawfully takes, or exercises unlawful control over, movable property of another with intent to deprive him thereof." 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 3921(a).
It is constitutional for the trier of fact to draw a permissible inference of guilty knowledge from the unexplained, or unsatisfactorily explained, possession of recently stolen goods. Commonwealth v. Williams, 468 Pa. 357, 362 A.2d 244 (1976). In the instant case, neither appellant nor his co-defendant had the owner's permission to drive the Chevrolet and it had been stolen at most six or seven hours prior to appellant's arrest; clearly such time period was insufficient for the automobile to have been assimilated into the ordinary market channels for automobiles. Id. Moreover, the officer identified appellant as the driver of the stolen vehicle. The evidence shows that after the officer followed the Chevrolet for some time in an unmarked car, appellant attempted to evade the officer; when the car crashed into a building, appellant again attempted to flee. As in Commonwealth v. Murray, 246 Pa. Super. 422, 428, 371 A.2d 910, 913 (1977), "appellant's conduct at the ...