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[U] Commonwealth v. Green

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

February 4, 2014



Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence July 23, 2012 In the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County Criminal Division at No(s): CP-02-CR-0014218-2011




Appellant, Navada Green, appeals from the judgment of sentence imposed July 23, 2012, by the Honorable Edward J. Borkowski, Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County. We affirm.

The trial court summarized the facts of this case as follows:
Margaret Smith owned several rental properties in the Homewood Section of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County. Navada Green was a tenant of Smith and lived in a building at 7333 Frankstown Avenue, but was evicted on October 13, 2011. Green was also on notice that she was not permitted to be on any of Smith's properties.
On October 29, 2011[, ] Green visited Claude Givens at 7505 Bennett Street, a property owned by Smith. Nina Stokes, Smith's daughter, lived in this building and she also served as property manager for Smith's several properties. That afternoon Stokes, who was familiar with Green, heard a commotion from Givens' room and could hear Green inside. From the hallway Stokes informed Givens that Green was not permitted on the property and she reminded Green, who had just burst out of the door, "you know you're not allowed to be on the property at all."
When Green started towards Stokes, Stokes walked away and told Givens to keep Green inside his room. Stokes walked downstairs and called the police and her mother. At Smith's instructions Stokes waited outside at the far end of the porch for the police to arrive. Stokes called the police again when she heard Green approaching the porch from the inside stairwell, "ranting and raving."
As Green stepped onto the porch she dropped her purse, swung her cane, and broke the glass on the front door. Green again lunged at Stokes, who warned Green that she better not hit her with her cane. Stokes, still holding her cell phone, raised both arms in front of her face to shield herself from Green's attack. Green struck Stokes hard in the forearm with her cane, causing Stokes' cell phone to fall. The impact caused Stokes to fall back and Green to start to fall on top of her. As Stokes attempted to push Green off of her, they both fell toward the porch steps. Green fell down the steps to the landing below; Stokes grabbed the railing to stop her fall.
Smith arrived at 7505 Bennett Street immediately after Green fell down the steps; Smith positioned herself on the first step up from the landing to keep Green, who was making her way back to the porch steps, away from her daughter. Smith instructed Stokes to stay on the porch and told Green to leave. Green tried to climb back onto the porch yelling, "I'm going to hit your daughter." Smith replied, "No, you're going to leave. The police are on their way, you need to just leave." Green grabbed at Smith's keys which were in her hand, saying that she was going to scratch Stoke's car. Green and Smith struggled on the landing and fell down a second set of steps to the sidewalk below. After a brief struggle on the ground Smith was able to gain her feet and hold Green "at bay" until police arrived.
Pittsburgh police officers Frank Welling and Timothy McManaway were dispatched to 7505 Bennett Street. Upon arrival they found all three women standing: Stokes on the porch holding her arm, Smith on the sidewalk, and Green on the sidewalk screaming and yelling. Officer Welling interviewed Stokes, noticed an "indent" in her left arm, and further noticed that her left arm had swollen to double the size of her right arm. Paramedics transported Stokes to Shadyside Hospital where she was diagnosed with a hairline fracture in her left forearm. Stokes' cellphone sustained $149 in damage and the door cost $300 to replace. The officers did not observe any injuries to Green, nor did she complain of pain at the scene.
Officers Welling and McManaway arrested Green. She "was completely combative and would not cooperate very much at all", and instead she "started yelling and screaming." Officers proceeded to transport her to the jail. During transport for processing Green pushed herself up in the backseat, sat down hard on the handcuffs, and managed to remove one hand from the cuffs. Green screamed and spat in the backseat while kicking at the door. After freeing herself she squeezed her breast hard, causing pain and stating that she was "trying to pop them." She made sexual comments to the officers of things she could do to them and became violent, threatening to kill them. Green's violent conduct and uncuffed status caused the officers to send a radio call that they were pulling over on the busway, and also to request assistance from a nearby police unit.
When Officer Welling opened the rear door to re-cuff Green, she ran out of the car. Officers stopped Green, re-cuffed her, and placed her in the backseat. Nonetheless she continued to scream obscenities at the officers. As the officers continued to the jail Green remained out of control: spitting, kicking at the door, threatening to kill the officers and telling them that she was going to have their jobs.

Trial Court Opinion, 2/7/13 at 4-7.

Green was charged with Aggravated Assault, [1] Terroristic Threats, [2]Simple Assault, [3] Escape, [4] and three counts of Criminal Mischief.[5] Following a jury trial, Green was convicted of Simple Assault, Terroristic Threats, and Escape. The trial court additionally found Green guilty of two summary counts of Criminal Mischief. Thereafter, on July 23, 2012, the trial court sentenced Green to an aggregate term of two years' probation. This timely appeal followed.

On appeal, Green argues that the Commonwealth produced insufficient evidence to support her convictions for Terroristic Threats and Escape. When determining if evidence is sufficient to sustain a conviction, our standard of review is well-settled:

A claim challenging the sufficiency of the evidence is a question of law. Evidence will be deemed sufficient to support the verdict when it establishes each material element of the crime charged and the commission thereof by the accused, beyond a reasonable doubt. Where the evidence offered to support the verdict is in contradiction to the physical facts, in contravention to human experience and the laws of nature, then the evidence is insufficient as a matter of law. When reviewing a sufficiency claim the court is required to view the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict winner giving the prosecution the benefit of all reasonable inferences to be drawn from the evidence.

Commonwealth v. Kendricks, 30 A.3d 499, 508 (Pa.Super. 2011) (citation omitted).

The evidence established at trial need not preclude every possibility of innocence and the fact-finder is free to believe all, part, or none of the evidence presented. It is not within the province of this Court to re-weigh the evidence and substitute our judgment for that of the fact-finder. The Commonwealth's burden may be met by wholly circumstantial evidence and any doubt about the defendant's guilt is to be resolved by the fact finder unless the evidence is so weak and inconclusive that, as a matter of law, no probability of fact can be drawn from the combined circumstances.

Commonwealth v. Stokes, 38 A.3d 846, 853 (Pa.Super. 2011) (quoting Commonwealth v. Mobley, 14 A.3d 887, 889-890 (Pa.Super. 2011)). "[T]he entire record must be evaluated and all evidence actually received must be considered." Stokes, 38 A.3d at 854.

Under section 2706(a)(1) of the Crimes Code, a person commits the offense of terroristic threats if the person communicates, either directly or indirectly, a threat to "commit any crime of violence with intent to terrorize another." 18 Pa.Cons.Stat.Ann. § 2706(a)(1). "[N]either the ability to carry out the threat nor a belief by the person threatened that it will be carried out is an essential element of the crime." Commonwealth v. Fenton, 750 A.2d 863, 865 (Pa.Super. 2000) (citation omitted). "Rather, the harm sought to be prevented by the statute is the psychological distress that follows from an invasion of another's sense of personal security." Id.

Although Green undoubtedly satisfies the first element of terroristic threats in that she threatened an act of violence, she argues that her statements were made during a period of "transitory anger" rather than a terroristic mindset. Green correctly notes that section 2706 is not intended to penalize "mere spur-of-the-moment threats which result from anger." 18 Pa.Cons.Stat.Ann. § 2706, Official Comment – 1972.

We are unpersuaded by Green's characterizations of her comments. Even were we to consider Green's comments as those made in the heat of anger, "[b]eing angry does not render a person incapable of forming the intent to terrorize." Fenton, 750 A.2d at 865. That Green's violent and threatening outbursts produced an "impairment of personal security" is evidenced by Officers Welling and McManaway's request for backup assistance. Moreover, the fact that Green threatened to kill Officers Welling and McManaway alone is sufficient to establish that she manifested the requisite intent to terrorize them. See Commonwealth v. Kelley, 664 A.2d 123, 128 (Pa.Super. 1995) (citation omitted), appeal denied, 544 Pa. 603, 674 A.2d 1068 (1996). Therefore, we find the evidence sufficient to support the charge of terroristic threats.

Green also challenges the evidence to support her conviction for escape. "A person commits [the offense of escape] if he unlawfully removes himself from official detention or fails to return to official detention following temporary leave granted for a specific purpose or limited period." 18 Pa.Cons.Stat.Ann. § 5121(a). Green argues that she lacked the intent to escape, but rather attempted to flee from the police vehicle because she was experiencing chest pains and thought the police wanted her to exit the vehicle. Appellant's Brief at 18. Our review of the record reveals no indication that Green at any time notified the officers that she was experiencing chest pains. Rather, as noted, the record reveals that while en route to the police station, Green removed one hand from her handcuffs and when police were forced to pull over to recuff her, Green attempted to flee from police detention. This evidence was clearly sufficient to sustain Green's conviction for escape.

Judgment of sentence affirmed.

Judgment Entered.

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