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In re C.E.H.

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

July 21, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF: C.E.H., A MINOR. APPEAL OF: C.E.H.

         Appeal from the Order Entered August 17, 2016 In the Court of Common Pleas of Northumberland County Juvenile Division at No(s): CP-49-JV-0000200-2015

          BEFORE: GANTMAN, P.J., LAZARUS, J., and PLATT, J. [*]

          OPINION

          LAZARUS, J.

         C.E.H., a minor, appeals from a dispositional order entered following his adjudication of delinquency for simple assault[1] (M2), aggravated assault[2](F1), obstructing administration of law or other governmental function[3](M2), and two counts of disorderly conduct (M3).[4] C.E.H. was placed on probation under the supervision of the Northumberland County Juvenile Court, ordered to participate in all treatment programs deemed necessary and appropriate, and directed to complete 20 hours of community service. After careful review, we affirm.

         On July 27, 2015, Chief Officer Todd Owens and Officer Matthew Dillman responded to a disturbance at 437 East Water Street, Mt. Carmel, Pennsylvania, where they took C.E.H.'s stepfather, J.F.S., into custody. While attempting to take Stepfather into custody, C.E.H. became irate. C.E.H. ran around the scene shouting obscenities at the police, jumped on the back of Chief Officer Owens, and impeded the police from escorting Stepfather to the police cruiser.

         During C.E.H.'s attempt to impede Stepfather's escort to the police cruiser, Gary Hixon intervened. Hixon is a former member of the Mt. Carmel rescue squad for which he had served for eighteen years, currently serves on borough council, is a friend of Chief Officer Owens, and an acquaintance of Officer Dillman. On the day in question, Hixon was driving to his mother's house at 409 North Locust Street when he noticed people in the street at the scene of the incident. Hixon then exited his vehicle, observed C.E.H. "trying to get [Chief Officer Owens], like grabbing the officer from behind, " grabbed C.E.H., and pushed him away from the police. N.T. Adjudicatory Hearing, 8/17/2016, at 17. C.E.H. continued to direct obscenities at the police. The incident lasted approximately 45 minutes.

         On August 17, 2016, the juvenile court heard testimony from four eyewitnesses, and adjudicated C.E.H. delinquent on five charges. Counsel for C.E.H. filed a timely notice of appeal and a Pa.R.A.P. 1925(b) concise statement of matters complained of on appeal.[5]

         On appeal, C.E.H. presents the following issue for our review:

Was the juvenile properly adjudicated delinquent on the offenses of simple assault, aggravated assault, obstructing administration of law or other governmental function, and two counts of disorderly conduct, based on a claim that the Commonwealth lacked sufficient evidence in establishing a finding of delinquency beyond a reasonable doubt?

         C.E.H. argues there was insufficient evidence to prove his delinquency beyond a reasonable doubt. Specifically, with regard to the delinquency of simple and aggravated assault, C.E.H. argues there was insufficient evidence to establish an intent to attempt to cause bodily injury. Additionally, C.E.H. argues that he was precluded from developing a defensive theory of bias based on the relationships among Hixon, Chief Officer Owens, and Officer Dillman, because opposing counsel's objections to further questioning such relationships were sustained. Lastly, C.E.H. argues his claim was against the weight of evidence because the trial court relied on the testimony of less credible witnesses.

         When reviewing a claim that the trial court erred in determining evidence was sufficient to find proof beyond a reasonable doubt, an appellate court must assess evidence and all reasonable inferences from that evidence most favorably to the verdict winner. Commonwealth v. Whitacre, 878 A.2d 96, 99 (Pa. Super. 2005). As long as the fact-finder could use such evidence and inferences therefrom to find proof beyond a reasonable doubt, the evidence is sufficient. Id. Further, the Commonwealth can meet its burden of reasonable doubt "by means of wholly circumstantial evidence." Id. Only when "as a matter law, no probability of fact can be drawn from the combined circumstances, " is the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt not met. Id. Ultimately, the fact-finder resolves all questions of doubt and is free to believe all, part, or none of the evidence presented. Commonwealth v. Newsome, 787 A.2d 1045, 1047-1048 (Pa. Super. 2001).

         During the adjudication proceedings on August 17, 2016, the Commonwealth presented the testimony of four eyewitnesses. The four eyewitnesses provided consistent testimony that described a scene where C.E.H. contacted Officer Owens by jumping on his back and tugging at his waist area, while continuously shouting obscenities at law enforcement in an attempt to prevent the arrest of his Stepfather. The testimony of the four eyewitnesses corroborated these events.

         A person is guilty of simple assault if he "attempts to cause or intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causes bodily injury to another." 18 Pa.C.S. § 2701(a)(1). Under section 2701(a)(1), a victim need not actually suffer bodily injury; the "attempt to inflict bodily injury may be sufficient. This intent may be inferred from the circumstances surrounding the incident if a specific intent to cause bodily injury may reasonably be inferred therefrom." Commonwealth v. Polston, 616 A.2d 669, 679 (Pa. Super. 1992).

         A person is guilty of aggravated assault if he "attempts to cause or intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causes serious bodily injury to any of the officers" listed in subsection (c) of section 2702. 18 Pa.C.S. § 2702(a)(2). The Commonwealth only needs to prove that the juvenile attempted to cause serious bodily injury; it does not have to prove that the victim actually suffered serious bodily injury. Commonwealth v. Holley, 945 A.2d 241, 247 (Pa. ...


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