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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. ODELL ASHFORD (07/27/79)

decided: July 27, 1979.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
ODELL ASHFORD, JR., APPELLANT



No. 1344 October Term, 1978, Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence in the Court of Common Pleas of Lancaster County, Criminal, No. 504 of 1977.

COUNSEL

Thomas G. Klingensmith, Assistant Public Defender, Lancaster, for appellant.

Ronald L. Buckwalter, District Attorney, Lancaster, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Price, Spaeth and Watkins, JJ. Spaeth, J., concurs in the result.

Author: Price

[ 268 Pa. Super. Page 227]

At the completion of trial by jury on May 20, 1977, appellant was found guilty of the offense of terroristic threats.*fn1 Following denial of his motions in arrest of judgment and for a new trial, he brought the instant appeal challenging the sufficiency of the evidence and the constitutionality of section 2706. Finding both that the evidence was sufficient to support the conviction, and that appellant has not preserved the issue regarding the constitutionality of the statute, we affirm the judgment of sentence of the trial court.

The facts pertinent to appellant's insufficiency claim are as follows. During the evening of March 8, 1977, Officers Charles Hogan and Steven White of the Lancaster police department were on routine patrol in that city. Upon entering a bar as part of their patrol, they observed appellant. Officer White recalled that an outstanding warrant might have been pending against appellant and the officers contacted headquarters requesting a check on the warrant. In the meantime, appellant had left the bar and started to drive away with several of his friends. The officers followed in their own vehicle; after a few blocks the confirmation was received that appellant was wanted on an outstanding charge for disorderly conduct. The vehicle in which appellant was riding was stopped, and the officers attempted to place him under arrest. Appellant emphatically asserted that he had paid the fine on the disorderly conduct charge and that he was not going to accompany the officers

[ 268 Pa. Super. Page 228]

    to the police station. When the officers persisted that appellant accompany them, appellant began cursing at the officers. After additional coaxing, appellant was handcuffed and placed in the police car. Upon entering the police car, appellant began threatening the officers, claiming that he was going to kill them. He stated that he now "had a very good attorney, that he could go anywhere in this county and do anything that he wished to do, and we couldn't touch him, that he would hunt us down on duty, or off duty, kill us, and our families, and we couldn't do a thing to stop him." Appellant then made an effort to observe the name plates worn by the officers and began repeating the threats using their first names. Appellant continued to repeat his threats at least twenty times during the ride to the police station and during the "booking". Both officers testified that they had been threatened on other occasions during the course of their police work. Most such incidents, however, involved defendants who were intoxicated and their threats could be dismissed as mere bragging. The officers stated that in this instance, appellant was not intoxicated, and that they had never been threatened in a manner whereby the arrestee expressed an intent to "hunt" them down and kill their families. As Officer Hogan testified,

"When a man says he is going to hunt you down, it's a difficult matter to defend yourself from, and especially when he talks about your families, because it is hard to guard your family all the time when you are working and you are somewhere else." (N.T. 12).

Both officers stated that they were genuinely concerned when appellant would be released on bail and whether he would attempt to fulfill his threat.

Under 18 Pa.C.S. ยง 2706, a person commits the crime of terroristic threats.

" if he threatens to commit any crime of violence with intent to terrorize another or to cause evacuation of a building, place of assembly, or facility of public transportation, or otherwise to cause serious public inconvenience, or in reckless disregard of ...


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