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[U] Commonwealth v. Freeman

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

March 6, 2014



Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence Entered January 29, 2013, In the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Criminal Division, at No. CP-51-CR-0008809-2012.




Appellant, Darryl Freeman, appeals from the judgment of sentence entered on January 29, 2013, in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas. We affirm.

The trial court set forth the facts of this case as follows:

At the trial for the Appellant, the complainant Bishop Mary Floyd Palmer, testified that on October 17, 2010, around 10 o'clock in the evening, she had parked her car, which was a green four door Sedan, a Saturn Ion, at 19th and Cherry Street in the city and county of Philadelphia and then she went to a restaurant. (N.T., 12/12/12, pgs. 20-21). She testified that at the time she parked, the vehicle was in fine condition and was secured with the windows and doors locked and with the alarm turned on. (N.T., 12/12/12, pg. 21). Inside the vehicle was a tote bag which contained a pocketbook, wallet, bible, and a few other items. There was also a computer bag with some other items in it, and a garment bag which contained her bishop attire. (N.T., 12/12/12, pg. 21). When Bishop Palmer returned to her vehicle after leaving the restaurant sometime around 11:30, she testified that the right rear passenger window was [broken, there was a] rock on the back seat[, ] her garment bag was thrown to the side[, ] and both [of] her other bags, the tote bag and computer bag, were missing. (N.T., 12/12/12, pg. 22). At that point, she immediately called the police and when they came to the scene they told her to look through the vehicle and take an inventory of what was missing from the vehicle. (N.T., 12/12/12, pg. 23). Bishop Palmer searched the vehicle to determine what was missing and then went over to Central Detectives. She gave them a statement of what had happened and made an itemized list of what was missing from the vehicle. (N.T., 12/12/12, pgs. 23-24).
On the next day October 18, 2010, Bishop Palmer testified that she received a call from a police officer who told her that they had apprehended someone who was in possession of her tote bag and some of her other belongings were possibly in the nearby location. (N.T., 12/12/12, pg. 25). She was told to come down and see if any of the items were her property. (N.T., 12/12/12, pg. 25). Bishop Palmer went to the location and she testified that she found her Social Security card, one of her bibles, some business cards and contact information. (N.T., 12/12/12, pgs. 25-26). The police officer who met her at the location allowed her to take those items back and also gave her back the tote bag. (N.T., 12/12/12, pg. 26).
Police Officer Francis Shirley, the officer who contacted Bishop Palmer, also testified at trial that on October 18, 2010, his tour of duty took him to the area of 20th Street and JFK Boulevard in the city and county of Philadelphia in response to a radio call. (N.T., 12/12/12, pgs. 9-10). When he arrived at the corner of 20th and JFK Boulevard, which is about three blocks from 19th and Cherry, he saw the Appellant standing up and holding a large black … purse. (N.T., 12/12/12, pg. 11). Officer Shirley testified that Appellant was holding the purse with his one hand and with his other hand was reaching into the purse. Appellant was taking items out of the purse which looked like papers, a bible, some smaller items, and a wallet. Appellant was dropping those items on the ground and continuing to look in the purse. (N.T., 12/12/12, pg. 12). At that point, Officer Shirley testified that he stopped his vehicle and got out to approach the Appellant. As Officer Shirley approached, he asked Appellant what he was doing and Appellant dropped the purse on the sidewalk, quickly got on his bike and took off. (N.T., 12/12/12, pg. 12). Officer Shirley relayed this information over police radio. (N.T., 12/12/12, pg. 12). Officer Shirley then retrieved the purse and all the items that Appellant dropped on the sidewalk. (N.T., 12/12/12, pg. 13). The officer testified that he found ID and a Social Security card both belonging to Mary Palmer. He then called the 9th District to find out if any thefts or anything related to that nature were previously reported to that area. (N.T., 12/12/12, pg. 13). He was informed that there was a complainant, Mary Palmer, who reported a theft from [an] auto on 19th and Cherry the night before and one of the items taken was a large black tote bag as well as various other items. (N.T., 12/12/12, pgs. 13-14). Officer Shirley testified that a short time later, around a half hour or so, he was contacted by another police officer and told to meet him at 1800 Cuthbert Street. When Officer Shirley arrived at that location, there were two police officers who had stopped the Appellant and Officer Shirley identified the Appellant as the person he saw with the purse who took off on the bicycle. (N.T., 12/12/12, pg. 14). At that point, Appellant was placed into custody. Officer Shirley went back to headquarters and called the complainant, Mary Palmer, to come down to the 9th District and identify her property. (N.T., 12/12/12, pgs. 14-15).

Trial Court Opinion, 6/17/13, at 2-4.

Appellant was arrested and charged with receiving stolen property. Appellant waived his right to a jury trial, and at the conclusion of a bench trial, which was held on December 12, 2012, the trial court found Appellant guilty of receiving stolen property. On January 29, 2013, the trial court sentenced Appellant to twelve months of reporting probation. No post-sentence motion was filed, and Appellant filed a timely appeal.

On appeal, Appellant raises one issue for this Court's consideration:
Did the Commonwealth prove that Appellant received, retained or disposed of another person's property and that he did so knowing or believing that said property was stolen?

Appellant's Brief at 3 (full capitalization omitted).

Our standard of review is well settled:

As a general matter, our standard of review of sufficiency claims requires that we evaluate the record in the light most favorable to the verdict winner giving the prosecution the benefit of all reasonable inferences to be drawn from the evidence. 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. Nevertheless, the Commonwealth need not establish guilt to a mathematical certainty. 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.
The Commonwealth may sustain its burden by means of wholly circumstantial evidence. Accordingly, the fact that the evidence establishing a defendant's participation in a crime is circumstantial does not preclude a conviction where the evidence coupled with the reasonable inferences drawn therefrom overcomes the presumption of innocence. Significantly, we may not substitute our judgment for that of the fact finder; thus, so long as the evidence adduced, accepted in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth, demonstrates the respective elements of a defendant's crimes beyond a reasonable doubt, the appellant's convictions will be upheld.

Commonwealth v. Franklin, 69 A.3d 719, 722-723 (Pa.Super. 2013) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted).

As noted above, Appellant was convicted of receiving stolen property, which is set forth in the Pennsylvania Crimes Code as follows:

Receiving stolen property

(a) Offense defined.--A person is guilty of theft if he intentionally receives, retains, or disposes of movable property of another knowing that it has been stolen, or believing that it has probably been stolen, unless the property is received, retained, or disposed with intent to restore it to the owner.
(b) Definition.--As used in this section the word "receiving" means acquiring possession, control or title, or lending on the security of the property.

18 Pa.C.S.A. § 3925 (emphasis added).

Appellant argues that the evidence was insufficient to convict him of receiving stolen property, and he cites to Commonwealth v. Williams, 468 362 A.2d 244 (Pa. 1976), to support his position. Appellant's Brief at 9. In Williams, the Supreme Court explained that the mere possession of stolen property is insufficient to prove guilty knowledge. Williams, 468 A.2d at 249. However, we point out that the Court in Williams also stated that while mere possession is insufficient, additional factors such as "the nature of the goods, the quantity of the goods involved, the lapse of time between possession and theft, and the ease with which the goods can be assimilated into trade channels, " may be considered to support a conviction. Id.

Here, the record reflects that Bishop Palmer's bag was stolen late one evening and Appellant was found in possession of that stolen bag by Officer Shirley the next morning. N.T., 12/12/12, at 12-13. Officer Shirley testified that he witnessed Appellant going through the contents of the bag, removing items, and casting them aside onto the ground. Id. at 12. When Officer Shirley approached, Appellant fled.[1] Id. In light of this evidence, the trial court, sitting as the finder of fact, concluded that Appellant knew the bag did not belong to him, and he knew the bag was stolen. Id. at 43. Moreover, the trial court found that Appellant was rummaging through the bag, discarding items, and looking for valuables. Id. Pursuant to our standard of review, and viewing all of this evidence in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth as the verdict winner, we conclude that the Commonwealth proved that Appellant committed the crime of receiving stolen property beyond a reasonable doubt. Accordingly, Appellant is entitled to no relief.

Judgment of sentence affirmed.

Judgment Entered.

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