from the Judgment of Sentence August 19, 2015 In the Court of
Common Pleas of Philadelphia County Criminal Division at No.:
BEFORE: OTT, J., DUBOW, J., and STEVENS, P.J.E.
Lionel B. Bullock, appeals from the Judgment of Sentence
entered in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas,
following his convictions after a bench trial for Aggravated
Assault, Simple Assault, Recklessly Endangering Another
Person ("REAP"), and Terroristic
Threats.He challenges, inter alia, the
sufficiency of the evidence and the discretionary aspects of
his sentence. After careful review, we affirm.
relevant facts, as gleaned from the certified record and the
trial court's Pa.R.A.P. 1925(a) Opinion, are as follows.
Appellant's 92-year-old mother, Jessie Carter, lived on
the second floor of her two-story home at 7020 Woolston
Avenue in Philadelphia. Appellant and his two minor children
also lived in Carter's home. Carter required physical
assistance with many daily tasks, and due to her lack of
mobility was confined mainly to her bed, using a walker to
get to the bathroom. Carter depended on an oxygen machine at
all times, which required electricity to operate and was
visible in her bedroom. A hospice service provided Carter
Reid, a Certified Nursing Assistant, began working three days
each week in August or September of 2013 to assist Carter
with personal hygiene, as well as cleaning her room,
obtaining food, and other tasks.
Reid began the job, Carter was living in very unsanitary and
unsafe conditions. Reid attempted to wash Carter's
laundry, but Appellant would not permit her to do anything
for Carter that required leaving the second floor, including
using the washing machine or getting ice for
Carter.In addition, Appellant was verbally and
emotionally abusive to Reid and Carter. Appellant constantly
pestered Reid during her work hours about when she would be
leaving the house, telling her frequently that she
"didn't have to be here." N.T. Trial, 12/12/14,
at 13. Appellant would also tell Carter that she did not need
a nurse and that "she was just using" Reid.
Id. Appellant also spoke to Carter in an angry and
negative tone, would yell Bible verses at Carter, and would
yell at Carter from throughout the house about the strong
instructed his minor daughter that she was not allowed to
help Carter, her grandmother, and would not allow
Carter's niece into the house to care for Carter. In
addition, although Meals on Wheels delivered food for Carter
to the house, Appellant would not give Carter all of the food
from the deliveries, and instead would eat or give away some
of the food.
October 28, 2013, Carter frantically called Reid and told her
that "her son, [Appellant], . . . said that the electric
would be cut off today and she doesn't know what
she's going to do." Id. at 25.
Reid arrived at the house, she expressed her concerns to both
Appellant and the PECO employee that shutting off the
electricity meant Carter's oxygen machine would not work
and she would not be able to breathe. Appellant ignored Reid
and insisted on shutting off the electricity without
expressing any legitimate reason. Despite Reid's best
efforts, the PECO employee eventually shut off the
electricity to Carter's home, and Appellant left the
immediately attempted to set up a backup manual oxygen tank
for Carter. After receiving assistance over the phone from
the hospice company, Reid managed to make the manual oxygen
tank operable for Carter after a 45-minute struggle. Although
the hospice company sent over a few additional tanks, the
oxygen would last a total of only eight hours. Reid
eventually called police for assistance.
Vincent Butler responded to Carter's home and observed
the deplorable conditions in Carter's bedroom. He spoke
with Carter, who was upset and scared that she would
suffocate and die. He also observed the oxygen machine, to
which the electricity "was clearly turned off."
Id. at 95. Sergeant Butler asked Appellant's
minor children to call Appellant. Appellant hung up on
Sergeant Butler at least once, and repeatedly stated that he
did not want to speak with Sergeant Butler. Appellant refused
to inform Sergeant Butler of what arrangements he had made
for his mother's care, and told Sergeant Butler
"[i]t's your problem." N.T. Trial, 2/9/15, at
11-12. Sergeant Butler clarified that Appellant referred to
his mother as "it" during this phone conversation.
Butler called an ambulance, and the emergency responders
transported Carter to the hospital. The hospital later
transferred Carter to a hospice care facility, where Carter
passed away a few weeks later. Sergeant Butler reported the
case to Special Victims Unit. Police eventually arrested
Appellant and charged him with Attempted Murder, Aggravated
Assault, Simple Assault, REAP, Terroristic Threats, and
Neglect of Care of a Dependent Person.
a bifurcated bench trial on December 12, 2014, and February
9, 2015, at which Michelle Reid and Sergeant Butler
testified, the trial court convicted Appellant of Aggravated
Assault, Simple Assault, REAP, and Terroristic
Threats. The trial court originally sentenced
Appellant to six to twelve years' incarceration for
Aggravated Assault, followed by a consecutive term of five
years' probation for Terroristic Threats. Both Appellant
and the Commonwealth filed Motions for Reconsideration.
Following a hearing on August 19, 2015, the trial court
imposed a new sentence of ten to twenty years'
incarceration for Aggravated Assault, followed by a
consecutive term of five years' probation for Terroristic
Threats. Appellant filed another Motion for Reconsideration,
which the trial court denied on November 13, 2015.
filed a timely Notice of Appeal on December 11, 2015. Both
Appellant and the trial court complied with Pa.R.A.P. 1925.
Appellant presents five issues on appeal:
1. Did not the lower court err and violate the corpus
delicti rule in admitting, over objection,
[A]ppellant's statements where the Commonwealth failed to
establish that a crime occurred by a preponderance of the
evidence, and the court further erred in considering the
statements during deliberation of the verdict as the
Commonwealth failed to prove that a crime had occurred beyond
a reasonable doubt?
2. Was not the evidence insufficient to sustain
[A]ppellant's convictions for [A]ggravated [A]ssault,
[S]imple [A]ssault, [REAP], and [T]erroristic [T]hreats?
3. Did not the lower court abuse its discretion in finding
that [A]ppellant's [P]rior [R]ecord [S]core at sentencing
was a "5" when the evidence offered at sentencing
by the Commonwealth was insufficient to support this
4. Did not the lower court err as a matter of law, abuse its
discretion, and violate [A]ppellant's constitutional
rights to due process of law, where at sentencing,
[A]ppellant received a sentence of 6 to 12 years and
subsequently the lower court reconsidered the sentence and
imposed a greater and vindictive sentence of 10 to 20 years
even though the Commonwealth presented no additional relevant
5. Did not the lower court err and abuse its discretion when
the court imposed a manifestly excessive and unreasonable
sentence of 10 to 20 years?
Appellant's Brief at 4-5.
first issue, Appellant avers that the trial court erred in
admitting his own extrajudicial statements made to Reid and
Sergeant Butler at trial about disconnecting the electricity,
which Appellant contends violated the corpus delicti
rule with respect to all charges. Appellant's Brief at
"[a]dmission of evidence is within the sound discretion
of the trial court and will be reversed only upon a showing
that the trial court clearly abused its discretion."
Commonwealth v. Tyson, 119 A.3d 353, 357 (Pa. Super.
2015) (citation and quotation omitted). "[A]n abuse of
discretion is not merely an error of judgment, but is rather
the overriding or misapplication of the law, or the exercise
of judgment that is manifestly unreasonable, or the result of
bias, prejudice, ill-will[, ] or partiality, as shown by the
evidence or the record." Commonwealth v.
Cameron, 780 A.2d 688, 692 (Pa. Super. 2001) (citation
and quotation omitted).
any criminal case, a conviction may not be based upon the
extra-judicial confession [or statement] of the accused
unless it is corroborated by independent evidence
establishing the corpus delicti." Commonwealth
v. Wood, 833 A.2d 740, 748-49 (Pa. Super. 2003)
(citations omitted). "This rule is rooted in the
hesitancy to convict a person of a crime solely on the basis
of that person's statements." Commonwealth v.
Cuevas, 61 A.3d 292, 295 (Pa. Super. 2013) (citation
Pennsylvania, "a confession [or extrajudicial statement]
is not evidence in the absence of proof of the corpus
delicti. . . . When the Commonwealth [proffers]
sufficient evidence of the corpus delicti to entitle
the case to go to the jury, it [may introduce] a confession
[or extrajudicial statement] made by the prisoner connecting
him with the crime." Commonwealth v. Taylor,
831 A.2d 587, 590 (Pa. 2003) (quoting Gray v.
Commonwealth, 101 Pa. 380, 386 (Pa. 1882)). The rule is
not limited to formal confessions; it extends to admissions
and statements of the accused. See Commonwealth v.
Smallwood, 442 A.2d 222, 225 (Pa. 1982) (discussing the
admissibility of an inculpatory statement made to a treating
court applies the corpus delicti rule in two phases:
(1) "In the first phase, the court determines whether
the Commonwealth has proven the corpus delicti of
the crimes charged by a preponderance of the evidence. If so,
the confession [or extrajudicial statement] of the defendant
is admissible[;]" (2) "In the second phase, the
rule requires that the Commonwealth prove the corpus
delicti to the factfinder's satisfaction beyond a
reasonable doubt before the factfinder is permitted to
consider the confession [or extrajudicial statement] in
assessing the defendant's innocence or guilt."
Commonwealth v. Reyes, 870 A.2d 888, 894 n.4 (Pa.
2005) (citations omitted).
the trial court properly admitted Appellant's inculpatory
statements to Michelle Reid and Officer Butler. The
Commonwealth offered eyewitness testimony that Appellant
directed a PECO employee to shut off the electricity on which
his mother depended for oxygen, notwithstanding
Appellant's self-serving averments in his Brief to the
contrary. Reid testified that she directly observed Appellant
on the property with the PECO employee. Officer Butler
testified that when he responded to the home, the electricity
"was clearly turned off." N.T. Trial, 12/12/14, at
95. There was substantial evidence of Appellant's motive
and intent in so doing. Appellant also knew about his