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[U] Commonwealth v. Walker

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

February 6, 2014



Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence entered September 7, 2012, in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Criminal Division, at No(s): CP-51-CR-0002191-2010




Aaron Walker ("Appellant") appeals from the judgment of sentence imposed after the trial court convicted him of one count of terroristic threats and three counts of simple assault.[1] We affirm.

The trial court summarized the pertinent facts and procedural history as follows:

[On January 15, 2010, Tia Kelly, age 23, was at her home with her cousin, Amber Kelly, when] they became involved in a threatening argument over Facebook with a Tabitha (Tabby) who was [co-defendant John Masterson's] sister. [Tia Kelly] could not recall the exact contents of the threats, since it was Amber Kelly who was actually reading them, but heard enough to become fearful because Tabitha put her address on the Facebook page, which caused her to fear for the safety of her, her family and her home. She called her friend, Amber Christiansen, and her sister-in-law, Jiona Ferguson, who came to the house and observed some of the continuing Facebook argument; after discussing the situation, the four of them decided to go to Masterson's residence to try to resolve the matter. They drove there and Ferguson went up alone and knocked on the door while the others stayed in the car. When [Appellant] answered, he began arguing with Ferguson and the other three decided to go get her away from him because she was pregnant, and from the tenor of the argument, they feared for her safety. As they approached, Masterson appeared wielding a hammer, a general argument ensued between all six of them, and Tia Kelly was struck by something which caused her to black out for a moment, having received a concussion, and came to bleeding from the nose. She denied having any weapon, hammer, knife or hairspray. She did not know what she was hit with; a neighbor took her into her house, gave her water to wash off the blood, and when she went back outside she found the other three women talking to the police. She went to Nazareth Hospital, was given a CAT scan and pain medication, was diagnosed with a slight concussion and a contusion to the upper lip, and lost a week from work. On cross-examination, she stated that she did not know who or what hit her, had decided to go to the residence instead of calling because she didn't know [the] phone number, though she was scared, she was not angry, and she knew Tabby and her older brother from having grown up with them ... .
Jiona Ferguson, age 20, [testified that] she received the call from Tia Kelly, was told of the threats and went to her house. She was also a little uncertain of the exact nature of the threats but could tell that Kelly was very upset about them and her address being posted; she suggested that she might be able to resolve the situation with Tabitha, being that they were both pregnant. When they got to the residence, she knocked on the front door and when [Appellant] answered, she asked to see Tabitha, to which he said to "wait right there, Bitch." After a minute or two, [Appellant] came back out, pushed her, and started arguing with her at which time Amber Christiansen came to get her and Masterson appeared with a hammer. As they were trying to return to the car to leave, [Appellant] kicked the right side window and Masterson kicked in the windshield. She denied being injured. On cross, she confirmed, as indicated on the police report, that about four men appeared, whom she did not know[.] [S]he denied counsel's suggestion that "Isn't it a fact that you brought these guys with you and that you went to the door to bait these people (referring to Masterson and [Appellant]) out of the house so that these guys could get them?", saying "I didn't bring anyone at the door with me." She did not specifically say so, but from the tenor it appears that these four strangers rendered some kind of assistance as she and one or two of the other women were able to drive around the corner, call the police, and wait for them to arrive; she confirmed seeing Masterson strike Kelly in the face with the hammer.
[Jiona Ferguson testified] that the police told her that Masterson had sustained injuries, but she didn't see him being struck, know the extent or who had inflicted them, and denied counsel's suggestion that it might have been the neighbor who had assisted Kelly. On redirect, she confirmed that she did not know the men who had intervened and did not bait Masterson and [Appellant] away from the property so they could beat them up.

Amber Christiansen [corroborated the testimony that Appellant] display[ed] his gun in his waistband by lifting his shirt and telling them not to make him use it, [that] Masterson [struck] Tia Kelly with the hammer, and both [Appellant and Masterson] kick[ed] the car. ... She denied that she or the other women had any weapons; she called the police as soon as they were able to drive away and park around the corner. In response to defense counsel's insinuations that the fact that four women, one of whom was pregnant, went to the home of an unknown number of people whom they did not know and had threatened them and with whom they were arguing and only the pregnant one went up to the door seemed rather incredulous, she responded:

Tabitha at the time was also pregnant. With Jiona pregnant we assumed that two pregnant women would be able to talk it out and nothing would happen due to the fact they were pregnant. That would make it calm, everything would be settled. There would be nothing to worry about, no problems further, and hopefully end the situation that night. Which didn't happen that way.

Trial Court Opinion, 5/30/13, at 2-5 (citations to notes of testimony omitted).

Appellant was arrested and charged with various crimes. Following a non-jury trial on February 23, 2012, Appellant was convicted of terroristic threats and three counts of simple assault. On September 7, 2012, the trial court sentenced Appellant to 3 to 23 months of imprisonment for terroristic threats, a concurrent 2 years of probation for one count of simple assault, and a consecutive 1 year of probation on each of the remaining counts of simple assault.

Appellant filed a notice of appeal. The trial court directed Appellant to comply with Pa.R.A.P. 1925(b). On November 14, 2012, Appellant filed a Pa.R.A.P. 1925(b) concise statement of errors complained of on appeal, requesting permission to supplement the Pa.R.A.P. 1925(b) statement once the notes of testimony were transcribed. On January 3, 2013, the trial court granted Appellant's request to file a supplemental concise statement of errors complained ...

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