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Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Christopher Thomas

April 3, 2013

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA APPELLEE
v.
CHRISTOPHER THOMAS APPELLANT



Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence of June 30, 2011 In the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County Criminal Division at No(s): CP-51-CR-0013909-2009

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

J-S53019-12

2013 PA Super 71

BEFORE: SHOGAN, J., WECHT, J., and STRASSBURGER, J.*fn1

OPINION BY WECHT, J.

Christopher Thomas ["Appellant"] appeals his June 30, 2011 judgment of sentence. On March 21, 2011, a jury convicted Appellant of simple assault,*fn2 recklessly endangering another person,*fn3 and criminal conspiracy to commit aggravated assault.*fn4 On June 30, 2011, Appellant was sentenced to six to twenty months of house arrest and a consecutive three-year term of probation. We affirm.

The trial court summarized the factual history of this case as follows:

Testifying through a Cambodian interpreter, the complainant Dany Hang (Hang) recounted that in the early evening of September 22, 2009, she left her apartment in the 5700 block of North 5th Street to retrieve a baby bottle from her car, which was parked on the street. When bending down into the car to find the bottle, she felt something cold against her waist and heard someone say that if she turned around she would be shot. She was then punched and kicked by five people. She saw that three of her assailants were Cambodian and that the other two were black males. From the stand, she identified the

Cambodians as Thoeun Tha, Rithy Tha and Thea Tha. She did not recognize the black males and could not remember their faces.

Rithy Tha was the first to punch her. Then the other four people joined in. She fell to the ground after multiple blows and her assailants began to kick her. She called to Vu Cao, her boyfriend, who was in the apartment they shared with her toddler son. She remembered that someone said, "Right now this is all we're going to hit you. Next time we're going to shoot you" and then the five walked away.

Bloodied, Hang stood up, moved toward the intersection, and called out for help; two police officers who happened to be parked in the parking lot of a school at that location heard her cries. Hang directed the two officers' attention to five people walking down the street, indicating that they had assaulted her. She remembers an officer placing Thea Tha in a police car. She fainted and awoke in the hospital.

Also testifying through an interpreter, Hang's boyfriend, Vu Cao (Cao), said that when he heard Hang call for him, he looked out from the apartment kitchen window on the second floor and saw five people; two of whom were pulling Hang's hair and punching her. He ran downstairs, deposited the child with the landlord who was on the first floor and went outside. He encountered the police who were responding to Hang's cries and told them that the five people who were walking away had assaulted Hang. He testified that he recognized Thea Tha and Thoeun Tha among the five. From the stand, he identified the males as Rithy Tha, Christopher Thomas and Carlton Finney.

Cao does not know what the police did then. He recalls that Hang was taken away by ambulance and that he was taken to a police station where he gave a statement. Cao knew the three Cambodians because they were the adult children of his former girlfriend, Mao Inn (Inn).

Henry Schoch (PO Schoch) and Nicholas Schoeniger (PO Schoeniger) were the uniformed officers in the marked patrol car in the Lowell Elementary School lot in the 5800 block of 5th Street at the time of the incident. PO Schoch was the driver and PO Schoeniger was seated in the passenger seat. Responding to Hang's calls for help, PO Schoch drove out of the lot to 5th and Grange Streets where they found Hang. PO Schoch attempted to speak to Hang who pointed to the five defendants who were walking away. Almost immediately, Cao appeared and he too pointed to the departing five. As they walked away, the five were looking in PO Shoch's direction. There were no other pedestrians on the street. After ...


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