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Commonwealth v. Felder

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

December 11, 2017

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
DARREN L. FELDER, Appellant

         Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence August 11, 2016 In the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County Criminal Division at No(s): MC-51-CR-0036062-2015

          BEFORE: PANELLA, J., DUBOW, J., and FITZGERALD, J. [*]

          OPINION

          DUBOW, J.

         Appellant, Darren L. Felder, appeals from the Judgment of Sentence entered in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County following his conviction for Criminal Contempt[1] for Violation of Protection from Abuse Order. After careful review, we affirm.

         Lisa Felder, Appellant's wife, obtained a Final Protection from Abuse Order ("PFA Order") against Appellant, which is effective from December 19, 2014 through December 18, 2017. The PFA Order states that Appellant shall not abuse, harass, stalk, or threaten Ms. Felder but does not limit other contact between Appellant and Ms. Felder. After obtaining the PFA Order, Ms. Felder continued to live with Appellant, and both of them resided with a roommate, Joyce Brown.

         On November 7, 2015, at approximately 6:00 A.M., Ms. Brown and Appellant were inside the home when Ms. Brown smelled smoke and contacted Ms. Felder, who was not home at the time. Ms. Felder immediately reported the smoke to the fire department and returned home. When the fire department arrived at the home, Appellant refused their services. Appellant also refused to allow Ms. Felder to enter the home. According to Ms. Felder, "I went to reach in - my screen door don't have a bottom. It don't have a bottom glass or screen. So I tried to reach in to unlock the door and as I'm unlocking the door he grabs my fingers, the three fingers and he twists my fingers to lock the door. So that went back and forth for several minutes until it started getting numb and I snatched my hand from under there. And I walked down the steps and I called 911." (N.T. Hearing, 8/11/16, at 22-23). Ms. Felder's thumb, pointer finger, and middle finger were red, swollen, and numb for a few days following the incident and she self-treated by immersing her fingers in ice a few times a day. Ms. Brown witnessed the incident between Appellant and Ms. Felder, she observed Appellant standing in the doorway and saw Ms. Felder stumble back from the door. Ms. Brown noticed Ms. Felder shaking and holding her hand after the confrontation.

         On August 11, 2016, after a bench trial, the trial court convicted Appellant of Criminal Contempt for Violation of a PFA Order and subsequently sentenced Appellant to a term of six months' reporting probation.

         Appellant timely appealed. On October 11, 2016, the trial court ordered Appellant to file a Pa.R.A.P. 1925(b) Statement of Errors Complained of on Appeal ("1925(b) Statement") and Appellant failed to comply. On November 16, 2016, Appellant filed an Application for Remand with this Court requesting an opportunity to file a 1925(b) Statement nunc pro tunc. On December 12, 2016, this Court granted Appellant's Application for Remand and ordered Appellant to file a 1925(b) Statement. Both Appellant and the trial court complied with Pa.R.A.P. 1925.

Appellant raises the following issues on appeal:
1. Whether the trial court erred as a matter of law in finding Appellant guilty of violating a non-eviction, [PFA] Order, where there was insufficient evidence of intent to do so?
2. Whether the trial court erred as a matter of law in finding Appellant guilty of violating an abuse/protection only [PFA] Order (23 Pa.C.S. [§ 6114(a)]) where the evidence was insufficient to establish a violation of the terms of the Order?

Appellant's Brief at 3 (some capitalization omitted).

         In both of his issues, Appellant avers that the evidence was insufficient to prove Criminal Contempt for Violation of a Protection from Abuse Order. See Appellant's Brief at 3. We review a contempt conviction for an abuse of discretion. Commonwealth v. Haigh, 874 A.2d 1174, 1177 (Pa. Super. 2005). We rely on the discretion of the trial court judge and are confined to a determination of whether the facts support the trial court's decision. Id. at 1176-77. In reviewing whether the evidence was sufficient to support the conviction, "we must determine whether the evidence admitted at trial, and all reasonable inferences drawn from that evidence, when viewed in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth as verdict winner, was sufficient to enable the fact finder to conclude that the Commonwealth established all of the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt." Commonwealth v. Taylor, 137 A.3d 611, 614 (Pa. Super. 2016) (en banc) (citation and quotation omitted). In applying the above test, "we may not weigh the evidence and substitute our judgment for the fact-finder." Commonwealth v. Brumbaugh, 932 A.2d 108, 109 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2007) (citation and quotation omitted). Finally, "the trier of fact while passing upon the credibility of witnesses and the weight of the evidence produced, is free to believe all, part or none of the evidence." Id. at 110.

         This Court has repeatedly stated that "[t]he purpose of the PFA Act is to protect victims of domestic violence from those who perpetrate such abuse, with the primary goal of advance prevention of physical and sexual abuse." Commonwealth v. Lambert, 147 A.3d 1221, 1226 (Pa. Super. 2016) (citation and quotation omitted). "Where a PFA order is involved, an indirect criminal contempt charge is designed to seek punishment for violation of the protective order." Commonwealth v. Jackson, 10 A.3d 341, 346 (Pa. Super. 2010) (citation and quotation omitted). A charge of indirect ...


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