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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. LINN SIMLER (05/24/83)

submitted: May 24, 1983.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLEE,
v.
LINN SIMLER, APPELLANT



No. 70 Pittsburgh, 1981, Appeal from Judgment of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas, Criminal Division of Allegheny County at No. CC 7801034.

COUNSEL

Paul David Boas, Pittsburgh, for appellant.

Robert L. Eberhardt, Deputy District Attorney, Pittsburgh, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Cavanaugh, Rowley and Cirillo, JJ. Cirillo, J., files dissenting opinion.

Author: Cavanaugh

[ 320 Pa. Super. Page 343]

Appellant Linn Simler was tried by a jury and convicted of simple assault. Post-verdict motions were denied and sentence was imposed. Appellant, represented by new counsel, took a direct appeal to this court, 280 Pa. Super. 154, 421 A.2d 451, raising the issue of trial counsel's ineffectiveness. Because we were unable to resolve the ineffectiveness issues on the record before us, we vacated the judgment of sentence and remanded the case for an evidentiary hearing. A hearing was held and the lower court found that trial counsel had not been ineffective. The judgment of sentence was reimposed and the instant appeal followed. Appellant now claims, inter alia, that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to call character witnesses on

[ 320 Pa. Super. Page 344]

    his behalf at trial. We agree and, therefore, reverse the judgment of sentence and remand for a new trial.*fn1

The simple assault charge brought against appellant arose out of an incident which occurred on February 7, 1978. On that evening, the appellant became involved in a dispute with the owner of a dining and dancing establishment in suburban Pittsburgh. The manager asked appellant to leave, but he remained at his table. Shortly thereafter, the police arrived and appellant was escorted out. Appellant was licensed to carry a firearm and had one on his person at that time. He willingly relinquished his gun and produced his gun permit as requested by Officer Palonder. An argument ensued, however, when Officer Palonder informed appellant that because appellant appeared intoxicated, his gun and permit were going to be confiscated and could be picked up at the police station the following morning. Appellant was ultimately arrested for disorderly conduct and taken to the police station.

According to the Commonwealth's evidence, the appellant, while in custody at the police station, kneed Officer Palonder in the groin. This was the basis of the simple assault charge. Appellant testified that while at the station, his hair was grabbed and he was punched in the face and that, following the melee, his nose was bleeding and his lip was split. He maintained that he never swung at or kicked the officers. The police agreed that appellant did receive some injuries but claimed that they were sustained when Officer Palonder, having been kneed in the groin, pushed appellant away, causing him to fall and hit his face against the radiator. Since appellant was found guilty of simple assault, the jury obviously believed the Commonwealth's version of the events rather than appellant's.

As we stated in Commonwealth v. Jennings, 285 Pa. Super. 295, 298-99, 427 A.2d 231, 232 (1981):

[ 320 Pa. Super. Page 345]

[W]hen confronted with a claim of ineffectiveness of counsel, this Court utilizes a two-step analysis. The Court must first determine whether the issue underlying the charge of ineffectiveness is of arguable merit. If the underlying issue is found to be of arguable merit, our inquiry shifts to a determination of whether the course chosen by counsel ...


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