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Commonwealth v. Delvalle

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

August 28, 2013

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA Appellee
v.
ROBERTO DELVALLE Appellant

Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence of September 9, 2011 In the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County Criminal Division at No.: CP-51-CR-0014528-2010

BEFORE: OLSON, J., WECHT, J., and COLVILLE, J. [*]

OPINION

WECHT, J.

Roberto Delvalle ("Appellant") appeals from the September 9, 2011, judgment of sentence. We affirm.

In its Pa.R.A.P. 1925(a) opinion, the trial court set forth the salient facts of this case as follows:

On October 30, 2010, two undercover Philadelphia police officers in "plainclothes" conducted a surveillance for drug sales beginning at approximately 3:45 p.m. From a confidential location, officer Eric Crawford used binoculars to observe [Appellant] from a distance of 50 to 55 feet.
The officer observed co-defendant Maria Melendez walk up to [Appellant], speak with [Appellant], and hand [Appellant] small items retrieved from the pocket of her hooded sweatshirt. [Appellant] immediately placed those items down the front of his pants. Melendez walked 20 to 30 feet away from [Appellant] and stood in front of a rowhouse.
Officer Crawford saw a woman walk up to [Appellant] and speak with [Appellant]. As they spoke, [Appellant] pointed to Melendez. The woman immediately walked to Melendez where she spoke with Melendez, handed Melendez money, and was given small items by Melendez[, ] which Melendez retrieved from the pocket of her hooded sweatshirt. During the next 17 minutes, the officer saw three more individuals have identical interactions with [Appellant] and Melendez. Each person walked up to [Appellant] and spoke with [Appellant]. As they spoke, [Appellant] pointed to Melendez. Each person then immediately walked to Melendez where they spoke with Melendez, handed Melendez money, and were given small items by Melendez[, ] which Melendez retrieved from the pocket of her hooded sweatshirt.
Officer Crawford was unable to leave his confidential location because he was working as back up to his partner, Officer Torres, [1] who was observing other narcotic transactions from the same confidential location. Officer Crawford was also unable to have other officers stop the people interacting with Melendez and [Appellant] because those officers were backing up Officer Torres in his simultaneous drug investigation. When Officer
Torres ended his investigation, Officer Crawford had two officers stop [Appellant] and Melendez. [Appellant] had two "bundles" of heroin in the front of his pants. Each bundle contained 14 packets of heroin with the word "Moon Dust" written on the packet. Melendez also had two "bundles" of heroin in the pocket of her hooded sweatshirt. One bundle contained 14 packets of heroin and the other bundle contained seven packets of heroin. Each packet had the word "Moon Dust" written on it. Melendez also had $59 in her possession.
On the day that Officer Crawford watched [Appellant] and Melendez, he was assigned to the narcotic enforcement team. He had been assigned there for four years. Officer Crawford knew the block where [Appellant] was arrested to be "a high drug traffic area for specifically heroin and crack cocaine."
Officer Crawford conducted 30 to 40 surveillances for narcotic transactions at the location where [Appellant] was arrested prior to [Appellant's] arrest. Those surveillances led to 75 to 100 arrests as a result of drug transactions "very similar" to the interactions which [Appellant] and Melendez were a part of. Prior to [Appellant's] arrest, Officer Crawford received training regarding the manner in which drugs are packaged, and the manner in which street level drug dealers distribute narcotics. Officer Crawford observed groups of two or more people working together to sell drugs approximately 100 times prior to arresting [Appellant]. Finally, Officer Crawford saw drug dealers stash narcotics in the front of their pants, i.e., where heroin was recovered from [Appellant], well over 100 times.
[Appellant] testified at trial. He largely corroborated the Commonwealth's evidence. [Appellant] confirmed that: he was standing in the area testified to by police; he knew [Melendez]; he spoke with people while standing on the sidewalk; he gestured with his hands while speaking to people; and that he had drugs when the police stopped and searched him. Notably, [Appellant] first stated during cross-examination, "No, I ...

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