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[U] Commonwealth v. Schmidt

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

February 12, 2014

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, Appellee
v.
HOLLY MARIE SCHMIDT, Appellant

NON-PRECEDENTIAL DECISION

Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence of May 16, 2013 In the Court of Common Pleas of Franklin County Criminal Division at No(s): CP-28-CR-0002386-2012

BEFORE: MUNDY, OLSON AND STABILE, JJ.

MEMORANDUM

OLSON, J.

Appellant, Holly Marie Schmidt, appeals from the judgment of sentence entered on May 16, 2013, as made final by the denial of her post-sentence motion on May 29, 2013. We affirm.

The trial court accurately summarized the factual and procedural background of this case as follows:

On July 21, 2012, a domestic dispute occurred between [Appellant] and her estranged husband Ryan [Schmidt] at his home in Waynesboro.[1] During the altercation, which occurred in the kitchen and living area of the home, [Appellant] punched Ryan [Schmidt] in the head multiple times. After Ryan [Schmidt] backed away from her, she threw miscellaneous kitchen items at him, including a vegetable grinder and a picnic basket. Ryan [Schmidt] swatted the projectiles away to keep them from hitting him. One of the items broke and shattered into pieces. Ryan [Schmidt] finally subdued [Appellant] as she raised a crockpot above her head to launch it at him. [Appellant and Ryan Schmidt's] two-year-old daughter, R.S., was standing near Ryan [Schmidt] during part of the altercation. [Appellant] claimed that the punching and throwing of objects never happened, but she did admit to striking him once in the face as she was attempting to leave the house.
[An information was filed on January 15, 2013 charging Appellant] with simple assault, [2] recklessly endangering another person [], [3] theft by unlawful taking, [4] and misdemeanor harassment.[5] [A] jury found [Appellant] guilty of simple assault . . . . On May 16, 2013, the [trial c]ourt sentenced [Appellant] to 23 months of probation, and on May 2[9], 2013, [it] denied [Appellant's] written post-sentence motion. This [timely] appeal followed.[6]

Trial Court Opinion, 8/26/13, at 1-2 (footnotes omitted).

Appellant presents two issues for our review:
1. Whether the trial court erred in denying [Appellant]'s post-sentence motion for judgment of acquittal by finding that the Commonwealth had established beyond a reasonable doubt each of the elements of simple assault . . . ?
2. Whether the trial court abused its discretion in denying [Appellant]'s post-sentence motion for a new trial by finding that the conviction was not against the weight of the evidence . . . ?

Appellant's Brief at 5.

Appellant first challenges the sufficiency of the evidence. "A claim challenging the sufficiency of the evidence presents a question of law." Commonwealth v. Fortune, 68 A.3d 980, 983 (Pa.Super. 2013), appeal denied, 78 A.3d 1089 (Pa. 2013) (citation omitted). Therefore, our standard of review is de novo and our scope of review is plenary. Commonwealth v. Felder, 75 A.3d 513, 515 (Pa.Super. 2013) (citation omitted). "In reviewing a sufficiency of the evidence claim, we must determine whether the evidence admitted at trial, as well as all reasonable inferences drawn therefrom, when viewed in the light most favorable to the verdict winner, are sufficient to support all elements of the offense." Commonwealth v. Cox, 72 A.3d 719, 721 (Pa.Super. 2013), quoting Commonwealth v. Koch, 39 A.3d 996, 1001 (Pa.Super. 2011). "[T]he facts and circumstances established by the Commonwealth need not preclude every possibility of innocence . . . . [T]he trier of fact while passing upon the credibility of witnesses and the weight of the evidence produced, is free to believe all, part or none of the evidence." Commonwealth v. Thomas, 65 A.3d 939, 943 (Pa.Super. 2013) (first alteration in original), quoting Commonwealth v. Ratsamy, 934 A.2d 1233, 1236 n.2 (Pa. 2007).

"The elements of simple assault are the attempt to cause or intentionally, knowingly or recklessly caus[ing] bodily injury to another[.]" Commonwealth v. Weigle, 949 A.2d 899, 906 (Pa.Super. 2008), affirmed, 997 A.2d 306 (Pa. 2010) (internal quotation marks omitted), citing 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 2701(a). "Bodily injury is defined as 'impairment of physical condition or substantial pain.'" Commonwealth v. Rahman, 75 A.3d 497, 501 (Pa.Super. 2013), quoting 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 2301.

Appellant argues the evidence was insufficient to convict her of simple assault for three reasons. First, she argues that she did not have the specific intent to injure Ryan Schmidt necessary for simple assault. Second, she argues that the items she threw did not cause bodily injury to Ryan Schmidt. Finally, she argues that the testimony of Ryan Schmidt is not credible.

As we have explained, "The Commonwealth need not establish that the victim actually suffered bodily injury; rather, it is sufficient to support a conviction if the Commonwealth establishes a [specific] attempt to inflict bodily injury. [The requisite] intent may be shown by circumstances which reasonably suggest that a defendant intended to cause injury." Commonwealth v. Klein, 795 A.2d 424, 428 (Pa.Super. 2002), quoting Commonwealth v. Richardson, 636 A.2d 1195, 1196 (Pa.Super. 1994).

In the case at bar, Appellant admitted to striking her husband in the head. N.T., 4/11/13, at 54. This was after Appellant and Ryan Schmidt had been arguing for approximately 30 minutes. Id. at 53. This evidence alone was sufficient to convict Appellant of simple assault. Taken in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth, the jury could have reasonably concluded that under these circumstances Appellant struck Ryan Schmidt in order to cause bodily injury.

Appellant cites In the Interest of Joyce Lindsey, 475 A.2d 156 (Pa.Super. 1984), in support of her argument that she lacked the specific intent required for simple assault. In Lindsey, the defendant's "two[-]year[-]old nephew sat by her side and rested his head on her arm. . . . [The defendant] used her elbow to strike the youngster and push him away from her." Id. at 157. We found this evidence insufficient to sustain a conviction for simple assault. Id. at 158. The case at bar is easily distinguishable from Lindsey because in this case there was circumstantial evidence that Appellant was attempting to cause bodily injury to Ryan Schmidt, i.e., the 30-minute argument that occurred at or around the time Appellant struck her husband. In Lindsey, there was no evidence regarding prior or ongoing animosity between the defendant and the victim which could have led the jury to reasonably conclude that the defendant attempted to injure the child. Id. at 157. Accordingly, Linsdsey does not alter our conclusion that Appellant possessed the specific intent necessary to be convicted of simple assault.

Furthermore, viewed in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth Appellant threw a vegetable grinder, a picnic basket, and other kitchen items at Ryan Schmidt. N.T., 4/11/13, at 11, 22-24. Considering the argument in which Appellant and Ryan Schmidt had been engaged, see id. at 53, the jury could reasonably conclude that Appellant threw the items intending to cause bodily injury to Ryan Schmidt. Thus, we need not reach the issue of whether the items actually caused bodily injury as Appellant's specific intent to inflict injury was sufficient evidence to support her conviction.

Appellant's other argument regarding the sufficiency of the evidence is also without merit. Appellant claims that there were no independent witnesses to the alleged assault and that there was a dispute regarding whether she threw items at Ryan Schmidt. However, we must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth. Cox, 72 A.3d at 721. When viewed in that light, the evidence showed that Appellant threw objects at Ryan Schmidt. Accordingly, the evidence was sufficient to convict Appellant of simple assault.

Appellant next contends that the conviction is against the weight of the evidence. A challenge to the weight of the evidence must first be raised at the trial level "(1) orally, on the record, at any time before sentencing; (2) by written motion at any time before sentencing; or (3) in a post-sentence motion." Pa.R.Crim.P. 607; Commonwealth v. Foley, 38 A.3d 882, 891 (Pa.Super. 2012), appeal denied, 60 A.3d 535 (Pa. 2013). Appellant properly preserved her weight of the evidence claim by raising the issue in her post-sentence motion.

"To grant a new trial based upon the weight of the evidence, it must appear to the trial court that the verdict was so contrary to the evidence as to shock one's sense of justice and make the award of a new trial imperative." Commonwealth v. Luster, 71 A.3d 1029, 1049 (Pa.Super. 2013) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). "[We do] not answer for [ourselves] whether the verdict was against the weight of the evidence . . . . [O]ur review is limited to whether the trial judge's discretion was properly exercised, and relief will only be granted where the facts and inferences of record disclose a palpable abuse of discretion." Commonwealth v. Brown, 71 A.3d 1009, 1013 (Pa.Super. 2013), quoting Commonwealth v. Karns, 50 A.3d 158, 165 (Pa.Super. 2012).

The trial court, when discussing Appellant's weight of the evidence claim, found:

The jury's verdict is not contrary to the weight of the evidence. Although the criminal charges involved a petty dispute, the conviction is not shocking to the [trial c]ourt's sense of justice. The Commonwealth did not present evidence of Ryan Schmidt's injuries, but it did introduce a photograph of a shattered kitchen appliance. That evidence corroborates his testimony that his wife punched him and threw objects at him. The [trial c]ourt disagrees with [Appellant]'s assessment that the items thrown were too small to cause bodily injury. Plastic and metal kitchen objects surely cause pain if they strike another person after being thrown. Finally, arguing that Ryan Schmidt's testimony is suspect because of [Appellant and Ryan Schmidt's] marital and custody dispute amounts to a credibility issue. The jury obviously rejected that argument[.]

Trial Court Opinion, 8/26/13, at 5.

We discern no abuse of discretion by the trial court in its analysis of Appellant's weight of the evidence argument. The jury chose to believe Ryan Schmidt, and not Appellant. There is nothing in the certified record to indicate that the trial court's sense of justice should have been shocked by the jury's determination. Accordingly, we conclude Appellant's weight of the evidence claim is without merit.

Judgment of sentence affirmed.

Judgment Entered.


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