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[U] Commonwealth v. Andrews

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

February 24, 2014



Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence January 23, 2013 In the Court of Common Pleas of Lebanon County Criminal Division at No(s): CP-38-CR-0000673-2012




Appellant, Peggy Jo Andrews, appeals from the January 23, 2013 judgment of sentence of 12 months' probation imposed after being found guilty of harassment.[1] After careful review, we affirm.

The trial court has set forth the relevant facts and procedural history as follows.

On or about February 24, 2012, Roland Forti (hereafter "Forti") contacted the Palmyra Borough Police Department to file a complaint against Peggy Andrews (hereafter "[Appellant]") for harassment. Forti accused [Appellant] of contacting his business, Forti Radiator & A/C Service, by phone multiple times during the week of February 13th th[r]ough the 17th. In response, [Appellant] was served with a notice of trespass letter on July 3, 2012. This letter indicated that [Appellant] was to stay away from Forti and his properties. Unfortunately, she did not do so. As a result, Officer Jared M. Henry charged [Appellant] with one count of harassment.
A jury trial was held on the matter before [the trial court] on November 8, 2012. During the trial, Forti testified to the telephone calls made to his business. After deliberation, the jury found
[Appellant] guilty of Harassment, in violation of 18 Pa.C.S. § 2709(a)(7). [Appellant] was sentenced on January 23, 2013[, ] to a period of probation for twelve months.
[Appellant] filed a Post Sentence Motion on January 28, 2013[, ] alleging that there was insufficient evidence for the jury to convict her of Harassment and asking [the trial court] to strike the jury verdict.

Trial Court Opinion, 5/28/13, at 3.

On May 28, 2013, the trial court denied Appellant's post-sentence motion. Thereafter, on June 24, 2013, Appellant filed a timely notice of appeal.[2]

On appeal, Appellant raises the following issue for our review.

A. Whether Appellant should be acquitted because there was not sufficient evidence presented at trial to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she committed the crime of Harassment?

Appellant's Brief at 4.

When reviewing a sufficiency of the evidence claim, our standard of review is well settled. We must "review the evidence admitted during the trial along with any reasonable inferences that may be drawn from that evidence in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth." Commonwealth v. Crawford, 24 A.3d 396, 404 (Pa.Super. 2011) (citation omitted). "Any doubts concerning an appellant's guilt [are] to be resolved by the trier of fact unless the evidence was so weak and inconclusive that no probability of fact could be drawn therefrom." Commonwealth v. West, 937 A.2d 516, 523 (Pa.Super. 2007), appeal denied, 947 A.2d 737 (Pa. 2008). Moreover, "[t]he Commonwealth may sustain its burden of proving every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt by means of wholly circumstantial evidence." Commonwealth v. Perez, 931 A.2d 703, 707 (Pa.Super. 2007) (citations omitted). "[T]he trier of fact, in passing upon the credibility of the witnesses, is free to believe all, part, or none of the evidence." Commonwealth v. Rivera, 983 A.2d 1211, 1220 (Pa. 2009) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted), cert. denied, Rivera v. Pennsylvania, 560 U.S. 909 (2010).

Pursuant to section 2709(a)(7), "[a] person commits the crime of harassment when, with intent to harass, annoy or alarm another, the person: … (7) communicates repeatedly in a manner other than specified in paragraphs (4), (5) and (6)." 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 2709(a)(7). Further, "communicates" is defined by statute to mean, "[c]onveys a message without intent of legitimate communication or address by oral, nonverbal, written or electronic means, including telephone, electronic mail, Internet, facsimile, telex, wireless communication or similar transmission." 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 2709(f).

Appellant asserts that the "two telephone calls, both short in duration, do not meet the elements of harassment." Appellant's Brief at 8. Further, Appellant asserts there was no testimony at trial that she made any more phone calls after the first two on the date of the incident. Id. Thus, Appellant argues that "there was insufficient evidence presented at trial to find Appellant guilty of harassment." Id.

Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth, as the verdict winner, we conclude there was overwhelming evidence to support Appellant's conviction for harassment. At trial, Forti testified that beginning in June of 2010, Appellant left numerous messages on his business, home and cell phones. N.T., 11/8/12, at 9. Forti testified that Appellant was involved in a relationship with one of his employees, Michael Kireta, and was calling Forti to reach Kireta. Id. As a result of Appellant's conduct, Forti sent Appellant a letter directing her not to call his business or home. Id. at 11. Forti followed up by having the police serve Appellant with a no trespass letter. Id. at 12-13. Forti testified that he had one phone line at his business, and that even after being served with the no trespass letter, Appellant continued to call his business over the next several months. Id. at 14. Accordingly, on February 2, 2012, after receiving two calls from Appellant asking for Kireta, Forti contacted the police. Id. at 15. Upon being contacted by Forti, Officer Jared Henry of the Palmyra Borough Police Department filed charges against Appellant. Id. at 24. At trial, Appellant admitted to making the two calls to Forti's business on the date alleged in order to locate Kierta. Id. Accordingly, because Appellant was directly warned not to communicate with Forti, and yet intentionally placed repeat phone calls to his place of business, the evidence is sufficient to prove Appellant guilty of harassment beyond a reasonable doubt. See 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 2709(a)(7).

Therefore, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth, we conclude that the Commonwealth set forth sufficient evidence to prove Appellant guilty of harassment beyond a reasonable doubt. See Crawford, supra at 404. Accordingly, the trial court's January 23, 2013 judgment of sentence is affirmed.

Judgment of sentence affirmed.

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