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Commonwealth v. Akrie

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

April 17, 2017

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, Appellee
v.
LAWRENCE DAVID AKRIE, IV, Appellant

         Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence September 16, 2015 In the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County Criminal Division at No(s): CP-02-CR-0013285-2014.

          BEFORE: OLSON, SOLANO and STRASSBURGER, [*] JJ.

          OPINION

          OLSON, J.

         Appellant, Lawrence David Akrie, IV, appeals from the judgment of sentence entered on September 16, 2015, as made final by the denial of his post-sentence motion on January 12, 2016. We hold that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by excluding the specifics of the alleged excessive force used by a police officer in this case and the results of the subsequent investigation. We further hold that the exclusion of this evidence did not violate Appellant's Confrontation Clause rights. As we also conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in determining that the jury verdict was not against the weight of the evidence, we affirm.

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

In the early morning hours of May 11, 2014, Appellant visited Serenity Nightclub with his sisters Meredith Akrie, Sierra Akrie, and Iesha Akrie, in the East Liberty/Homewood section of the City of Pittsburgh. At approximately 3:00 [a.m.], Sierra and Meredith were escorted out of the club by security because the two sisters were physically fighting with another woman. Appellant and Iesha followed their sisters outside.
Several security guards and uniformed City of Pittsburgh police officers were stationed outside the club that evening. Appellant and his sisters were belligerent as they exited the club. Officer [Richard] McClain, one of the City of Pittsburgh police officers stationed outside, attempted to calm the group. He directed them towards their car and requested that they leave the premises, but Appellant and his sisters were very angry[ and] loud, and refused to leave.
Officer McClain continued to try to calm the group, but Appellant yelled at Officer McClain, "Nobody better put their fucking hands on me." Officer McClain responded that would not be necessary, and that Appellant and his sisters should return to their car. Appellant ran towards Officer McClain with his fists clenched, arm raised, and chest puffed out. He stopped within a few feet of Officer McClain and yelled at him, "I don't have to go nowhere. If anybody touches me, I'll mess you up. You can't make me move. Don't touch my sisters, pussy, I'll kick your ass." Officer McClain drew his taser gun and told Appellant to step away from him and go home, or he would deploy the taser. City of Pittsburgh police officer Kevin Kenney was approximately five feet away from Officer McClain, monitoring the situation as it developed.
Officer McClain continued to attempt to calm Appellant and his sister[s], and have them return to their car. However, Appellant and his sisters refused to leave, and Appellant continued to yell and curse at Officer McClain. During this time, the woman whom Sierra and Meredith had been fighting inside the club walked outside. Sierra and Meredith immediately ran towards the woman and resumed their attack on the woman. Officer McClain turned around to intervene in the altercation, and Appellant lunged at Officer McClain's back.
However, Officer Kenney ran between Appellant and Officer McClain before Appellant could make contact. Officer Kenney ordered Appellant to "get back, " and pushed Appellant backwards, away from Officer McClain. As Officer Kenney pushed Appellant backwards, Appellant attempted unsuccessfully to strike Officer Kenney's face with his elbow.
Appellant stumbled backwards a few feet, resumed a fighting stance, put his hands up, and ran towards Officer Kenney. Appellant grabbed Officer Kenney around the waist and legs and attempted to lift him into the air and onto the ground. Officer Kenney grabbed Appellant at the same time, and the two struggled with each other. Appellant was unable to push Officer Kenney to the ground, so he released his grip, stumbled backwards, and immediately resumed his fighting stance.
Officer Kenney decided to arrest Appellant for attempting to strike a police officer, and he approached Appellant to effectuate the arrest. When Officer Kenney approached, Appellant ran away into the parking lot. Officer Kenney gave chase in order to effectuate the arrest, and attempted numerous times to grab Appellant in order to handcuff him, but Appellant continued to evade Officer Kenney.
Shortly thereafter Appellant stopped running, faced Officer Kenney, and attempted to grab Officer Kenney. In response, Officer Kenney struck Appellant, and Appellant grabbed Officer Kenney around his waist and legs, attempting to knock him off his feet a second time. Officer Kenney struck Appellant in the face with his knee, and Appellant finally stopped fighting and dropped to the ground, where Officer Kenney was able to handcuff Appellant. Appellant suffered a lip injury as a result of the knee strike. Once Appellant was handcuffed, he apologized to Officer Kenney, and [advised] Officer Kenney that [the officer] knew Appellant's mother.
City of Pittsburgh police officers stopped the altercation between Appellant's sisters and the unknown woman, and placed Meredith and Sierra in handcuffs. Officer Kenney acknowledged that he knew Appellant's mother, and decided to give Appellant a "break" and issue Appellant a citation for summary level offenses, so he released Appellant that night to seek medical attention for his lip. . . . Appellant filed a complaint with the Pittsburgh Office of Municipal Investigations ([] "OMI") against Officer Kenney for use of excessive force. As a result, Officer Kenney ...

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