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In re M.W.

May 5, 2009


Appeal from the Order Dated May 8, 2007, In the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County Juvenile at No(s): JV 06-001033.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Freedberg, J.



¶ 1 Appellant, M.W., appeals from the dispositional order entered on May 8, 2007, by the Juvenile Division of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County. For the reasons discussed below, we affirm.

¶ 2 The relevant facts and circumstances underlying this case are taken from the juvenile court's opinion dated September 26, 2008.

On March 20, 2007, Sergeant Larry Scirotto, a thirteen (13) year veteran of the City of Pittsburgh Police Force, was working a 3 P.M. to 11 P.M. shift. See Hearing Transcript dated 4/19/07 at page 19. (hereafter "H.T.") Sergeant Scirotto and two (2) fellow police officers (Officers Smith and Sullivan) were conducting foot patrol in the Chauncey Drive Section of the Hill District in the City of Pittsburgh. (H.T. 19) That area had recently been targeted for such patrols because of high drug trafficking and gun violence. (H.T. 19)

At one point during the patrol, Sergeant Scirotto was informed by Officer Smith that, as officers approached, two (2) males had run from the sidewalk on Chauncey Drive into an adjacent courtyard of the housing project. (H.T. 20, 26-27) In response, the officers entered the courtyard and Sergeant Scirotto observed Appellant standing at the doorway of a building apparently having attempted, or contemplating, entry into that building. (H.T. 20, 28) Appellant was dressed in black jeans, a t-shirt and a puffy, thick denim-type jacket. (H.T. 21, 28) Appellant was unable to enter the building because the building had a security door which was locked. (H.T. 20, 208) Appellant looked back at Sergeant Scirotto and made a quick movement with his hand to the front waistband and pocket area of his pants. (H.T. 20, 29) Appellant then turned toward Sergeant Scirotto and Officer Smith, and Sergeant Scirotto noticed Appellant's right hand was now underneath his jacket in the front waistband area of his pants. (H.T. 20-22, 28-29) Sergeant Scirotto, based on his knowledge that gun violence and drug activity were prevalent in this area, believed that Appellant could be concealing and have immediate access to a weapon. (H.T. 20, 26). Consequently, Sergeant Scirotto ordered Appellant to the ground. (H.T. 20, 28) Appellant did not comply and started to move toward a second doorway in the courtyard. (H.T. 29) Sergeant Scirotto ordered Appellant to the ground a second time at which time Appellant did comply. (H.T. 20) Appellant layed (sic) down with his left arm outstretched, however he kept his right hand underneath his body. (H.T. 20-21, 28-29).

Still concerned for his safety, as well as that of his fellow officers, Sergeant Scirotto ordered Appellant to put both his hands behind his back. Appellant did not comply, however Sergeant Scirotto was able to secure Appellant's left hand behind his back. (H.T. 21-22) Sergeant Scirotto again ordered Appellant to bring his right hand out from underneath his body, but Appellant again refused to comply. (H.T. 22) Sergeant Scirotto was able to grab and place Appellant's right hand behind Appellant's back. (H.T. 22)

Sergeant Scirotto then performed a pat-down search of the front waistband and pocket area of Appellant's pants for officer safety. (H.T. 22, 29) The pat-down did not yield a weapon, but in the course of patting down Appellant's waist band and front pocket area, Sergeant Scirotto felt a chunky, golf ball size object in Appellant's right front pants pocket. (H.T. 22, 25) Based on his training and experience, Sergeant Scirotto recognized this to be crack cocaine. (H.T. 22, 24, 30) Not only was Sergeant Scirotto a thirteen-year veteran of the Pittsburgh Police force, but he had also served in the narcotics unit and made several hundred narcotics arrest during his service. (H.T. 23)

Appellant was placed under arrest and searched. No drug paraphernalia indicative of personal use was found incident to that search. (H.T. 24) As Sergeant Scirotto was placing Appellant under arrest and searching Appellant, Sergeant Scirotto was talking to Officer Smith about the crack cocaine just seized. Appellant gratuitously interjected himself into that conversation, stating that he didn't use the crack cocaine, but was "just trying to take care of my family." (H.T. 24)

The seized material that Sergeant Scirotto believed to be crack cocaine was submitted to, and analyzed by the Allegheny County Crime Lab. (H.T. 33) The crime lab confirmed the chunky white material to be crack cocaine weighing 4.90 grams. (See Commonwealth Exhibit 1; H.T. 33)

Juvenile Court Opinion dated 9/26/08 at 4-7.

¶ 3 Following a hearing, on April 19, 2007, Appellant was adjudicated delinquent on charges of possession with intent to deliver*fn1 and possession of crack cocaine.*fn2 Appellant was committed to ABRAXAS by order dated May 8, 2007.

ΒΆ 4 Appellant filed the current, timely appeal. Appellant was ordered to file a concise statement of matters complained of on appeal pursuant to Pa.R.A.P. 1925(b). Accordingly, Appellant filed a timely 1925 ...

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