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In re Arrington

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

July 16, 2019

IN RE: SHELDON ARRINGTON APPEAL OF: SHELDON ARRINGTON

          Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence Entered May 10, 2018 In the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County Criminal Division at No(s): CP-02-MD-0001985-2018

          BEFORE: BENDER, P.J.E., DUBOW, J., and FORD ELLIOTT, P.J.E.

          OPINION

          DUBOW, J.

         Appellant, Sheldon Arrington, appeals from the Judgment of Sentence that the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas entered after the court issued an Order finding him in Contempt of Court. Appellant challenges the sufficiency of evidence and the discretionary aspects of his sentence. After careful review, we affirm.

         We glean the following factual and procedural history from the certified record. The use of cellphones in courtrooms of the Allegheny County Courthouse is prohibited by Order of the Court. Notice of this prohibition is on numerous signs at the Courthouse.

         On April 13, 2018, Appellant, an Allegheny County juvenile court probation officer with a 19-year tenure, was sitting in the front row of the general seating area of the courtroom, waiting to testify as a witness in a hearing to transfer a matter to juvenile court. After the trial judge took the bench, the court crier called the case and the sheriff left the courtroom to escort the defendant into the hearing. While waiting for the sheriff to return, the judge observed Appellant texting on his cellphone and asked Appellant to put his cellphone away. Appellant looked around the courtroom, responded, "there's nothing going on in here," stated that he had an "emergency," and continued to use his cellphone. The trial court then ordered Appellant to leave the courtroom. Appellant left not only the courtroom but also the courthouse.

         The defendant's counsel was then unable to contact Appellant to return to the courtroom to testify on the defendant's behalf. Concerned that Appellant's conduct might impact the court's determination of Appellant's credibility, the defendant's counsel requested that the judge recuse himself from the matter. The judge recused himself. The court then sent the case to the court administrator for reassignment.[1]

         The trial court then issued a Rule to Show Cause upon Appellant to show cause why the court should not hold him in contempt of court. At the hearing, Appellant apologized for his conduct. He did not present any other evidence.

         The trial court found Appellant guilty of criminal contempt for using his cellphone in the courtroom and imposed a sentence of ten days of incarceration. After Appellant filed a Motion for Reconsideration, the trial court modified the sentence to a term of five to ten days of incarceration.[2]

         Appellant filed a timely Notice of Appeal. Appellant and the trial court complied with Pa.R.A.P. 1925.

         Appellant presents the following issues for our review:

1. Was the evidence sufficient to support the lower court's finding of contempt, specifically, did the evidence support a finding that Appellant intended to disrupt the proceedings?
2. Did the lower court abuse its discretion in imposing a sentence of incarceration upon Appellant for using a cellphone in court when no active proceedings were ongoing and then offering a verbal protest to the court which was not loud, violent or belligerent, and ...

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