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Commonwealth v. Thompson

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania

March 12, 2015

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
v.
Kenneth D. Thompson, Sr., Appellant

Submitted October 10, 2014.

Appealed from No. CP-06-SA-0498-2013. Common Pleas Court of the County of Berks. Ludgate, Senior Judge.

Keith E. Kendall, Harrisburg, for appellant.

Alisa R. Hobart, Assistant District Attorney, Reading, for appellee.

BEFORE: HONORABLE BONNIE BRIGANCE LEADBETTER, Judge, HONORABLE PATRICIA A. McCULLOUGH, Judge, HONORABLE JAMES GARDNER COLINS, Senior Judge. OPINION BY SENIOR JUDGE COLINS.

OPINION

Page 803

JAMES GARDNER COLINS, Senior Judge

Following a trial de novo in the Berks County Court of Common Pleas (Trial Court), Kenneth D. Thompson, Sr. (Appellant), was convicted of a summary offense for violating Bethel Township Local Ordinance (Ordinance) 1997-4 § 3.C " Disturbing the Peace Involving Conduct Towards a Police Officer." Appellant brings this appeal from the judgment of sentence entered by the Trial Court on

Page 804

March 20, 2014.[1] For the reasons that follow, we affirm.[2]

" Disturbing the Peace Involving Conduct Towards a Police Officer" is defined in Subsection C of the Ordinance as " interfering willfully with, resisting, delaying, obstructing, molesting, or threatening to molest by any person a police officer in the exercise of his/her official duties." Ordinance 1197-4 § 3.C. Before the Trial Court, Appellant, Appellant's neighbor, Richard Eugene Powell, Appellant's grandson, Justin Thompson, and Bethel Township Police Officer Rhiannon Trate each testified concerning events that transpired on June 30, 2013. (March 20, 2014 Hearing Transcript (H.T.) at 4, 8, 16, 21, Reproduced Record (R.R.) at 5a, 6a, 8a, 10a.) Based on the testimony offered by these witnesses, the Trial Court made the following findings of fact:

Appellant knew she was a police officer, as he told his grandson, with whom he was on the phone at the time this happened. (Notes of Testimony, 3/20/2014, at 17-18). He was told and thus he knew that the police officer was there to investigate a report about an issue with the neighbor. (Id. at 11). The officer was in full uniform in a marked patrol vehicle. Id. at 9. When the officer knocked on Appellant's door and indicated that she needed to speak to him about the dispute, he replied, " I have a shotgun and it's loaded with buckshot." (Id., at 12, 15). Then, when he refused to permit her to enter and she asked him to come outside instead, he threatened, " If you don't get off my property, I'm coming out with my shotgun." (Id.).

( Trial Court Opinion at 4, R.R. at 20a.) Based on these findings of fact, the Trial Court concluded that Appellant's statement was " made to trouble or harm the officer by threatening to cause serious, potentially fatal injury to a police officer who was trying to perform her duty to investigate a report." ( Id.) The Trial Court also concluded that the Ordinance provided Appellant with fair notice that his conduct was prohibited and that the Ordinance was therefore not unconstitutionally vague. ( Id.)

Before this Court, Appellant argues that the Trial Court erred in concluding that the Ordinance passes constitutional muster. Appellant contends that the Ordinance unnecessarily encompasses both lawful and unlawful activity, fails to provide a reasonable standard by which a person can gauge his or her conduct, and encourages arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement. Appellant contends that his refusal to speak with or allow a police officer ...


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