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Commonwealth v. Giles

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

March 20, 2018

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
MICHAEL WADE GILES, JR. Appellant

         Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence September 23, 2016 In the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County Criminal Division at No(s): CP-02-CR-0004601-2015

          BEFORE: LAZARUS, J., KUNSELMAN, J., and STEVENS [*] , P.J.E.

          OPINION

          LAZARUS, J.

         Michael Wade Giles, Jr., appeals from the judgment of sentence, entered in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, following his convictions of rape of a child, [1] aggravated indecent assault, [2] unlawful contact with minor-sexual offenses, [3] indecent assault-person less than 13 years of age, [4] corruption of minors-defendant age 18 or above, [5] endangering welfare of children, [6] and indecent exposure.[7] After our review, we affirm.

         The charges in this case stemmed from incidents occurring in the spring and summer of 2013, when the female victim, Q.H., was ten years old. At trial, Q.H. testified that on the first occasion, Giles touched her vagina while they were in her mother's bedroom. On the second occasion, again in her mother's bedroom, Giles made Q.H. touch his penis. On the third occasion, Q.H. testified that Giles told her to go to the living room and take off her clothes; he then had sexual intercourse with her and performed oral sex on her. Q.H. disclosed these three incidents at the forensic interview and at the preliminary hearing, but left out the oral sex that occurred during the third incident, to which she testified at trial.

         Following trial, the jury convicted Giles of the aforementioned offenses and the court sentenced him to an aggregate term of imprisonment of 215 to 430 months, to be served consecutively to an existing federal sentence.[8]Giles filed post-sentence motions, which were denied, and this timely appeal followed. Both Giles and the trial court have complied with Pa.R.A.P. 1925. Giles raises two issues for our review:

1. Whether the trial court erred as a matter of law and/or abused its discretion by permitting the Commonwealth to admit Q.H.'s forensic interview video as a prior consistent statement?
2. Whether the trial court erred as a matter of law and/or abused its discretion by permitting Q.H.'s grandmother's testimony about the contents of an interview that she observed between Q.H. and a police officer as a prior consistent statement?

Appellant's Brief, at 7.

         At trial, which was held June 29, 2016 to July 1, 2016, over defense counsel's hearsay objection, the court admitted into evidence the video of Q.H.'s forensic interview. The forensic interview took place the previous year, on March 11, 2015. The trial court ruled the interview video was admissible as a prior consistent statement. See Pa.R.E. 613(c). See also Commonwealth v. Hunzer, 868 A.2d 498, 512 (Pa. Super. 2005) (prior consistent statements of child victim of sexual assault, offered to corroborate in-court testimony, are not hearsay).

         In reviewing a trial court's ruling on the admissibility of evidence, our standard of review is one of deference. It is firmly established that "[q]uestions concerning the admissibility of evidence lie within the sound discretion of the trial court, and [a reviewing court] will not reverse the court's decision on such a question absent a clear abuse of discretion." Commonwealth v. Chmiel, 738 A.2d 406, 414 (Pa. 1999). An abuse of discretion requires:

not merely an error of judgment, but where the judgment is manifestly unreasonable or where the law is not applied or where the record shows that the action is a result of partiality, prejudice, bias or ill will.

Chmiel, 738 A.2d at 510, citing Commonwealth v. Widmer, 744 A.2d 745, 753 (Pa. 2000) (citation omitted).

Pennsylvania Rule of Evidence 613(c) provides:
(c) Witness's Prior Consistent Statement to Rehabilitate
Evidence of a witness's prior consistent statement is admissible to rehabilitate the witness's credibility if the opposing party is given an opportunity to cross-examine the witness about the statement and the statement is offered to rebut an express or implied charge of:
(1) fabrication, bias, improper influence or motive, or faulty memory and the statement was made before that which has been charged existed or arose; or
(2) having made a prior inconsistent statement, which the witness has denied or explained, and the consistent statement supports the witness's denial or explanation

Pa.R.E. 613(c).

         At trial, Q.H. testified that the first sexual assault occurred in April of 2014, sometime before Easter. N.T. Jury Trial, 7/1/16, at 151, 159-60.[9] She testified that the second assault occurred about a week later, id. at 160, and the third in July of 2014, the day before her birthday, which is July 29. Id. at 169.

         On cross-examination, defense counsel challenged this testimony, inferring either fabrication, or inaccurate or faulty recollection, by referring to the March 11, 2015 forensic interview with Dr. Susan Nathan:

Q. Now, do you remember when you were interviewed by Dr. Susan Nathan, you told her that the first ...

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