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Commonwealth v. Cline

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

December 29, 2017

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
PATRICK CLINE Appellant

         Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence August 22, 2016 In the Court of Common Pleas of Lehigh County Criminal Division at No(s): CP-39-CR-0000271-2015

          BEFORE: BENDER, P.J.E., MUSMANNO, J., and STEVENS [*] , P.J.E.

          OPINION

          STEVENS, P.J.E.

         Appellant, Patrick Cline, appeals from the judgment of sentence entered in the Court of Common Pleas of Lehigh County after a jury found him guilty of intercepting and disclosing a wire, electronic, or oral communication, in violation of the Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Control Act.[1]Appellant levels a sufficiency of the evidence challenge in which he asserts that the Commonwealth failed to prove he knowingly or intentionally violated the Wiretap Act when he recorded a custody hearing attended by his ex-wife and him at the Lehigh County Courthouse. We affirm.

The trial court aptly sets forth pertinent facts, as follows:
On September 2, 2014, the defendant [hereinafter "Appellant"] and his ex-wife, Jennifer Kibler, were in the Lehigh County Courthouse for a custody conference. The conference was held in the office of custody master Don Klein, Esquire. Also present in the room was Lehigh County Deputy Sheriff Peter Tirado. Approximately 20 to 30 minutes into the conference, Appellant stood up and announced that he was recording the hearing with his cell phone. Master Klein advised Appellant that he could not record in there and asked Deputy Tirado to take Appellant's phone. Appellant put the phone in his pocket, ran out of the room, and left the courthouse. Appellant ultimately posted the recording on Facebook.
At [Appellant's June 15, 2016, ] trial, Ms. Kibler, Master Klein, [and] Deputy Tirado testified that they never gave Appellant permission to record the conference[, and there were signs posted prohibiting the use of cell phones]. Master Klein and Deputy Tirado testified that the conference room is accessed by swiping a key card and is not accessible by the public. Appellant testified and admitted to recording the hearing and posting it on Facebook, but [he] maintained he did not do anything illegal.

         Trial Court Opinion, dated 5/4/17, at 1-2.

         The jury convicted Appellant of violating the Wiretap Act, and the court ordered a pre-sentence investigation report and scheduled a sentencing date. On August 22, 2016, the court sentenced Appellant to a term of incarceration of 11 ½ to 23 months, followed by three years' probation. Appellant filed post-sentence motions, which were denied following a hearing. This timely appeal followed.

Appellant presents the following question for our review:
WAS THE EVIDENCE INSUFFICIENT TO SUPPORT THE VERDICT FOR THE FOLLOWING REASONS:


A. THERE WAS NO EVIDENCE THAT APPELLANT KNEW THAT RECORDING THE HEARING AND/OR POSTING IT ONLINE WAS AGAINST THE LAW AS THE SIGNS MERELY SAID "NO CELL PHONES" BUT DID NOT PROHIBIT RECORDING. IT WAS THEREFORE NOT PROVEN THAT HE HAD THE REQUIRED MENS REA.
B. PROHIBITING DEFENDANT FROM RECORDING THE PROCEEDINGS AND/OR POSTING IT ONLINE VIOLATED HIS DUE PROCESS RIGHTS UNDER THE UNITED STATES AND PENNSYLVANIA CONSTITUTIONS SINCE THE INFORMATION RECEIVED AT THE CUSTODY CONFERENCE WAS RECEIVED ...

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