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In re L.C.D.

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

June 20, 2013

IN THE INTEREST OF L.C.D., A MINOR, APPEAL OF: L.C.D., A MINOR

NON-PRECEDENTIAL DECISION

Appeal from the Dispositional Order of May 24, 2012 In the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County Juvenile Division No(s).: CP-40-JV-0000120-2012.

BEFORE: BENDER, SHOGAN, and FITZGERALD, [*] JJ.

MEMORANDUM

FITZGERALD, J.

Appellant, L.C.D., appeals from the dispositional order in the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County committing him to a secure facility. Appellant asserts that the evidence presented at the adjudication hearing was insufficient to sustain the finding that he committed acts constituting aggravated assault against a police officer and a school employee.[1] We reverse the adjudication of delinquency based on aggravated assault, otherwise affirm the adjudication of delinquency, and remand this case for a new dispositional hearing.

The juvenile court summarized the evidence presented by the Commonwealth at the adjudication hearing as follows:

[T]he Commonwealth presented the testimony of Matthew Bonawitz, a school police officer with the Luzerne County Intermediate Unit. He is assigned to the Alternative Learning Center (ALC) in Plains Township, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. Officer Bonawitz testified that part of the duties of his employment and assignment at ALC is to assist in conducting daily searches of the students using a metal detector. On [April 17, 2012], Officer Bonawitz was alerted by a school teacher, Gerald Gilsky, that [Appellant] was not properly searched. [Appellant] had already proceeded to the breakfast line when Officer Bonawitz approached him and told him to return to the search area. [Appellant] refused and struck Officer Bon[a]witz's arm. A struggle then ensued between [Appellant], Officer Bonawitz, and Mr. Gilsky when the three of them took to the ground. [Appellant] was then handcuffed and taken to Officer Bonawitz's office while waiting for charges to be approved. While in the office, [Appellant] kicked the door, made threats to Officer Bonawitz and Mr. Gilsky, and tried to head-butt Officer Bonawitz. The Plains Township Police Department was then called to assist. Most of the altercation was recorded by video surveillance and presented in Court at the Adjudication Hearing.

Juvenile Ct. Op., 8/24/12, at 2-3 (record citations and footnotes omitted).

The Commonwealth filed a delinquency petition alleging that Appellant committed acts constituting aggravated assault against a police officer, aggravated assault against a school employee, harassment, resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct.[2] An adjudication hearing was held on May 4, 2012, at which the juvenile court found Appellant delinquent for committing all acts alleged in the delinquency petition. The Honorable Tina Polachek Gartley, who presided over the adjudication proceeding, recused herself on May 16, 2012, and a dispositional hearing was held before the Honorable David W. Lupas. On May 24, 2012, the court committed Appellant to North Central Secure.[3] This appeal followed.[4]

Appellant presents the following question for review:

Whether the Commonwealth provided sufficient evidence for the [juvenile] court's finding of [Appellant's] factual responsibility for one count of aggravated assault pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S. § 2702(a)(3), and one count of aggravated assault pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S. § 2702(a)(5)?

Appellant's Brief at 1.

Appellant contends that the evidence presented at the adjudication hearing failed to demonstrate, beyond a reasonable doubt, that he committed offenses constituting violations of section 2702(a)(3) and (5). First, he argues that the evidence did not prove that Officer Bonawitz and Mr. Gilsky suffered bodily injury. Id. at 5. Second, he claims that the Commonwealth failed to produce sufficient direct or circumstantial evidence that he acted with an intent to cause bodily injury. Id. at 11. Specifically, he asserts that the only direct evidence of his intent was his own testimony that he did not intend to harm the officer or Mr. Gilsky. Id. at 10. Appellant further asserts that the circumstantial evidence—such as his size relative to the officer and Mr. Gilsky, the lack of purposeful blows or initial aggression, and his mere use of inappropriate language—did not amount to proof of intent to cause bodily injury. Id. at 11.

The Commonwealth concedes that the evidence was insufficient to prove that Officer Bonawitz and Mr. Gilsky suffered bodily. See Commonwealth's Brief at 6. The Commonwealth argues instead that the evidence, which included the presentation of video recordings of the incident, provided the juvenile court with a sufficient basis to find that Appellant: (1) resisted against lawful restraint, (2) pulled the officer and Mr. Gilsky to the ground, and (3) struck them either with his arms or feet. Id. at 8-10.[5] Thus, according to the Commonwealth, the record contained sufficient evidence of specific intent to cause bodily injury. Id. at 10 (citing Commonwealth v. Brown, 23 A.3d 544 (Pa. Super. 2011)).

Because the record establishes—and the Commonwealth concedes— that Appellant did not cause bodily injury to Officer Bonawitz or Mr. Gilsky, we consider the sufficiency of the evidence sustaining the finding that Appellant attempted to inflict bodily injury. For the reasons that follow, we conclude that the evidence presented at the adjudication hearing was insufficient to prove that Appellant attempted to inflict bodily injury upon the officer or Mr. Gilsky.

The standards governing our review of a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence in an adjudication of ...


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