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[U] Commonwealth v. George

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

February 21, 2014

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, Appellee
v.
ANDREA GEORGE, Appellant

NON-PRECEDENTIAL DECISION

Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence entered June 20, 2013, in the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County, Criminal Division, at No(s): CP-46-SA-0000048-2013

BEFORE: ALLEN, JENKINS, and FITZGERALD [*] , JJ.

MEMORANDUM

ALLEN, J.

Andrea George ("Appellant") appeals from the judgment of sentence imposed after the trial court found her guilty of harassment.[1] We affirm.

The pertinent facts are as follows: On July 26, 2012, Daniel Michael Collins, who resides at 618 Burton Road, Oreland, Pennsylvania, was in his driveway when Appellant turned her car so that it faced his driveway, pointed a laser light at him, and sounded her horn for approximately fifteen minutes. N.T., 6/20/13, at 5-8. Thereafter, on August 23, 2012, while Mr. Collins was standing at a neighbor's house talking with neighbors, Appellant appeared at a second floor window and screamed that "she was going to get a gun and kill [them] all." Id. at 9-10; Trial Court Opinion, 9/16/13, at 16-17.

Appellant was subsequently arrested and charged with harassment and disorderly conduct. Following a hearing on December 21, 2012 in the magisterial district court, Appellant was found guilty of both offenses. Appellant filed a notice of appeal on January 18, 2013, and the record was transmitted to the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas. A bench trial commenced on June 20, 2013, at the conclusion of which the trial court found Appellant guilty of harassment and not guilty of disorderly conduct. The trial court sentenced Appellant to pay a fine of $100 plus costs. This appeal followed. Appellant and the trial court have complied with Pa.R.A.P. 1925.

Appellant presents one issue for our review:

Did the trial court err when it found the evidence presented at trial, and all reasonable inferences drawn from it, to be sufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt all elements of the crime of Harassment (S) under 18 Pa.C.S. § 2709(a)(3) with respect to Appellant?

Appellant's Brief at 4.

When reviewing a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence, we are bound by the following:

We must determine whether the evidence admitted at trial, and all reasonable inferences drawn therefrom, when viewed in a light most favorable to the Commonwealth as verdict winner, support the conviction beyond a reasonable doubt. Where there is sufficient evidence to enable the trier of fact to find every element of the crime has been established beyond a reasonable doubt, the sufficiency of the evidence claim must fail.
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. Tarrach, 42 A.3d 342, 345 (Pa. Super. 2012).

Appellant was found guilty of harassment. Pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 2709(a)(3), "[a] person commits the crime of harassment when, with intent to harass, annoy or alarm another, the person engages in a course of conduct or repeatedly commits acts which serve no legitimate purpose." A "course of conduct" is defined in § 2709(f) as "[a] pattern of actions composed of more than one act over a period of time, however short, evidencing a continuity of conduct ...." 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 2709(f). "A course of conduct intended to harass, annoy or alarm a person can be based on words alone. Also, a single act will not constitute a course of conduct under the definition of harassment. An intent to harass may be inferred from the totality of the circumstances." Commonwealth v. Lutes, 793 A.2d 949, 961 (Pa. Super. 2002) (citations omitted). See also Commonwealth v. Schnabel, 344 A.2d 896 (Pa. Super. 1975) ("A single, isolated act cannot be regarded as a course of conduct, entailing criminal sanctions, within the meaning of the statute under consideration.").

Appellant argues that the Commonwealth failed to demonstrate her intent to annoy or alarm. Appellant's Brief at 8-13. Additionally, Appellant claims that her conduct in sounding her horn for fifteen minutes did not constitute a "course of conduct" sufficient to sustain a harassment conviction. Id. The trial court disagreed, however, concluding that the evidence at trial demonstrated that Appellant engaged in a course of conduct intended to harass, annoy or alarm.

At trial, Mr. Collins testified that on July 26, 2012, while he was in his driveway, Appellant, who was in her car in her driveway, turned her car perpendicular so that her car was directed at Mr. Collins' house. N.T., 6/20/13, at 6-8, 14. Appellant, from a distance of approximately 20 feet, then "pointed a laser light at [Mr. Collins'] chest and ... eyes and ... forehead." Id. at 7.[2] Appellant began to press the horn on her car, and continued to do so for approximately fifteen minutes. Id. at 8. Mr. Collins testified that Appellant "was sitting there blowing the horn constantly. All she did was lay on the horn, lay on the horn, lay on the horn. And she did that for like fifteen minutes." Id. Mr. Collins became afraid that Appellant had a gun, and called 911. Id.

Additionally, Mr. Collins testified that on August 23, 2012, he was standing outside of a neighbor's house, talking with two neighbors, when Appellant appeared at a second floor window, holding a camera, and screamed that "she was going to get a gun and kill us all." Id. at 9-10. This testimony was corroborated by Lucille Wolfe, one of the neighbors who was present at the time. Id. at 20-24.

The trial court concluded that the Commonwealth presented sufficient evidence to demonstrate that Appellant engaged in a course of conduct intended to harass, annoy or alarm. After "attaching full credibility to the testimony [of] Daniel Michael Collins, and noting the acrimony in the neighborhood between the parties," the trial court reasoned that the Commonwealth demonstrated all elements of harassment beyond a reasonable doubt. Trial Court Opinion, 9/16/13, at 4.

At trial, Appellant presented the testimony of Joseph Calu, an auto technician, who stated that on or around January 10, 2013, several months after the incidents with Mr. Collins, he performed work on Appellant's car, including repairs to her car alarm system, after she complained of problems with her horn. N.T., 6/20/13, at 28-33. Based on this testimony, Appellant argues that she did not intend to annoy or alarm, but suggests that the horn was defective, and that she lacked the intent to harass. Appellant's Brief at 13. However, the trial court, acting within its discretion, opted not to credit Mr. Calu's testimony as negating the element of intent. We will not disturb such credibility determinations on appeal. See Tarrach, supra ("the fact- finder is free to believe all, part, or none of the evidence presented [and] [i]t is not within the province of this Court to re-weigh the evidence and substitute our judgment for that of the fact-finder").

Appellant additionally asserts that her action in sounding her horn for fifteen minutes was, alone, insufficient to establish that she engaged in a "course of conduct" sufficient to sustain a harassment conviction. Appellant's Brief at 11-13. The record indicates, however, that in addition to sounding the horn for an extended period, Appellant also pointed a laser light at Mr. Collins, and approximately four weeks later, threatened to kill Mr. Collins and other neighbors with her gun. These cumulative events support the trial court's finding that Appellant engaged in a course of conduct sufficient to sustain a harassment conviction. As previously explained, a course of conduct is defined as a "pattern of actions composed of more than one act over a period of time, however short, evidencing a continuity of conduct". 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 2709(f).

Based on the foregoing, we affirm the judgment of sentence.

Judgment of sentence affirmed.

Judgment Entered.


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