from the Judgment of Sentence May 31, 2016 In the Court of
Common Pleas of Luzerne County Criminal Division at No(s):
BEFORE: DUBOW, J., RANSOM, J., and STRASSBURGER, J.
Travis H. Jones, appeals from the Judgment of Sentence of 16
to 30 years' incarceration entered in the Luzerne County
Court of Common Pleas following his conviction of two counts
of Possession of a Firearm Prohibited and one count of
Possession of a Firearm with an Altered Serial
Number. Finding that the Commonwealth presented
sufficient evidence to sustain Appellant's convictions,
relevant facts and procedural history, as gleaned from the
certified record, are as follows. On June 16, 2014, at 6:02
AM, Kingston police responded to a 911 call of a domestic
disturbance in Appellant's home at 105 Penn Street. When
the police arrived, only Appellant, who was cleaning blood
from the walls and the floor, was present in the home.
Appellant later confessed to police that he had accidentally
shot the victim, Raheem Clark, in his daughter's bedroom.
Police recovered a .44 Magnum revolver with an obliterated
serial number and a shotgun from Appellant's home. A
ballistics expert confirmed that a bullet jacket removed from
the victim by surgeons from Geisinger Wyoming Valley Hospital
came from the revolver found in Appellant's
police charged Appellant with the above crimes, as well as
one count each of Aggravated Assault, Aggravated Assault with
a Deadly Weapon, Tampering with Evidence, and four counts of
Recklessly Endangering Another Person
Appellant's request, the court severed the Possession of
a Firearm Prohibited charges from the Possession of a Firearm
with an Altered Serial Number and Tampering with Evidence
charges for purposes of trial. On January 29, 2016, the court
held a bench trial on the Possession of a Firearm Prohibited
charges, at which the Commonwealth presented the testimony of
Kurtis Bennett, a witness, Kingston Police Detective Edward
Palka, Detective Stephen Gibson, Pennsylvania State Police
Sergeant Floyd Bowman, and Mary Dumas, Appellant's
mother. The Commonwealth elicited testimony from Detective
Gibson and Sergeant Floyd that demonstrated to the court that
Appellant had a prior Manslaughter conviction, thus rendering
him a person prohibited from possessing a firearm.
Accordingly, at the conclusion of the bench trial the court
convicted Appellant of two counts of Possession of a Firearm
April 18, 2016, the court commenced a jury trial on the
altered serial number and Tampering with Evidence charges.
The Commonwealth presented the testimony of Kingston Police
Officer John Bevilaqua, Detective Edward Polka,
Detective Stephen Gibson, and Pennsylvania State Police
Corporal Elwood Spencer.
to the instant appeal, Officer Bevilaqua testified that he
was the first police officer to arrive at 105 Penn Street.
N.T. at 53. Officer Belvilaqua secured the scene and departed
for the hospital, where surgeons gave him the bullet jacket
recovered from the victim. Id. at 58-59.
Polka testified that he and Detective Gibson advised
Appellant of his Miranda rights, and interviewed him.
N.T. at 67. Detective Gibson testified that, in
addition to interviewing Appellant with Detective Polka, he
also executed a search warrant on 105 Penn Street.
Id. at 83-84. Detective Gibson also testified that
he recovered a .44 Magnum revolver from the back of a closet,
underneath garbage bags full of clothing. Id. at 90.
Detective Gibson indicated that a visual inspection of the
inside of the gun's cylinder revealed that a round had
been fired from the gun. Id. at 91.
Spencer, the Commonwealth's firearm and tool mark expert,
testified that he examined the gun found in Appellant's
residence. Id. at 107. He concluded that the bullet
jacket removed from the victim had come from that gun.
Id. at 133. Corporal Spencer also explained how one
would fire this particular weapon, highlighting its safety
features. Id. at 110-12. Corporal Spencer testified
that he checked this gun for a serial number, but it had been
obliterated. Id. at 116, 118. Corporal Spencer
indicated that he found the obliterated serial number
"just above the trigger part on the right-hand
side" of the gun. Id. at 116.
Spencer noted that someone had obliterated the serial number
to such a degree that the police could not read it and he
could not restore it to a legible condition. Id. at
close of the Commonwealth's case, Appellant made an oral
Motion for Judgment of Acquittal, arguing, inter
alia, that the Commonwealth had failed to present
evidence that Appellant understood he was handling a gun
without a serial number. N.T., 4/19/16 at 144. The
Commonwealth argued that proving that Appellant was in
possession of a gun without a serial number in his own home
was sufficient to meet its burden of proof on the Possession
of a Firearm with an Altered Serial Number charge.
Id. at 144-47. The court denied Appellant's
Motion, and, on April 20, 2016, the jury convicted Appellant
of Possession of a Firearm with an Altered Serial Number. The
jury acquitted Appellant of the Tampering with Evidence
31, 2016, the court sentenced Appellant to three consecutive
terms of 5 to 10 years' incarceration, to run consecutive
to a 1-year sentence imposed when the court earlier held
Appellant in contempt of court, for an aggregate term of 16
to 30 years' incarceration.
7, 2016, Appellant filed a Post-Sentence Motion, which the
court denied on June 21, 2016. Appellant's timely appeal
followed. Both Appellant and the trial court complied with
raises the following two issues on appeal:
1. Did the trial court err in finding Appellant guilty
despite the lack of sufficient evidence to prove the elements
of the offense with which he was charged?
2. Did the trial court err in overruling Appellant's
request for a demurr[er] at the close of the
Commonwealth's case despite the fact that the
Commonwealth failed to provide any evidence regarding
[Appellant's] mental state as required in the jury
Appellant's Brief at 6.
first issue, Appellant challenges the sufficiency of the
Commonwealth's evidence of Appellant's identity as a
person prohibited from possessing a firearm. Id. at
13. Appellant claims that the evidence of Appellant's
prior Manslaughter conviction was insufficient to prove
definitively that Appellant was the person convicted for that
crime. Appellant asserts that, in the absence of witness
testimony connecting Appellant ...