from the Judgment of Sentence November 6, 2017 In the Court
of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County Criminal Division at
from the PCRA Order Entered June 25, 2018 In the Court of
Common Pleas of Philadelphia County Criminal Division at
BEFORE: PANELLA, P.J., OLSON, J., and FORD ELLIOTT, P.J.E.
Williams appeals from the June 25, 2018 order of the
Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas denying his
petition pursuant to the Post-Conviction Relief Act
("PCRA"), 42 Pa. C.S.A. §§ 9541-9546.
Williams argues he is entitled to PCRA relief in the form of
a new trial based on after-discovered evidence. The
Commonwealth concedes a new trial is required.
careful review, we conclude the PCRA court erred in denying
Williams' PCRA petition. Therefore, we reverse the
decision of the PCRA court and grant Williams a new trial.
January 24, 2007, Williams was arrested and charged with
various drug and gun related offenses. The case proceeded to
a non-jury trial. The Commonwealth presented testimony from a
single witness, former Philadelphia Police Officer Reginald
Graham. Following the close of evidence, the trial court
found Williams guilty of carrying a firearm without a
license, carrying a loaded weapon, carrying a firearm in
public in Philadelphia, possession of an instrument of crime,
simple assault, possession of a controlled substance with
intent to deliver, and intentional possession of a controlled
substance by a person not registered. On January 16, 2009, the
court sentenced Williams to 11 ½ to 23 months'
imprisonment, followed by 10 years of probation. Williams did
not seek direct review after sentencing.
serving probation, Williams committed numerous technical
violations. Despite these technical violations, the trial
court demonstrated patience and leniency by allowing Williams
to continue on supervision. However, on November 6, 2017,
Williams appeared before the trial court for a violation of
probation hearing after which the trial court revoked
Williams' probation and imposed a state prison sentence
of 2 to 4 years' incarceration. Williams appealed the
revocation and sentence to this Court.
February 14, 2018, while his direct appeal from the
revocation of probation was still pending, Williams filed a
PCRA petition. In his petition, Williams alleged he recently
discovered serious allegations of misconduct against former
Officer Graham. Due to the nature of the allegations, the
Commonwealth agreed Williams should receive PCRA relief in
the form of a new trial. However, following an evidentiary
hearing, the PCRA court denied the petition. Williams again
consolidated appeal, Williams raises three issues for our
review. However, we need not consider all of Williams'
issues on appeal because our disposition of his PCRA petition
will resolve the entire matter. Therefore, we address whether
Williams' claim of after-discovered evidence entitles him
to a new trial pursuant to the PCRA.
initial matter, we must decide whether the pendency of
Williams' direct appeal from the judgment of sentence
after his probation was revoked rendered his subsequent PCRA
petition a legal nullity. Generally, a petitioner, such as
Williams, may only file a PCRA petition after he "has
waived or exhausted his direct appeal rights."
Commonwealth v. Leslie, 757 A.2d 984, 985 (Pa.
Super. 2000) (citation omitted). If a petition is filed while
a direct appeal is pending, the PCRA court should dismiss it
without prejudice towards the petitioner's right to file
a petition once his direct appeal rights have been exhausted.
revocation of probation does not materially alter the
original judgment of sentence. See Commonwealth v.
Anderson, 788 A.2d 1019, 1021 (Pa. Super. 2001).
Therefore, probation revocation creates a wrinkle in the
otherwise straightforward determination of finality. See
id. For issues challenging the revocation and the
sentence imposed after revocation, a new date for finality is
created. See id. But challenges to the original
trial and sentencing are not affected by the revocation.
See id., at 1022. To be timely, post-conviction
challenges to the original trial and sentencing must be
raised within one year of the date the original judgment of
sentence became final. See id.
this appeal consolidates an appeal from the revocation of
Williams' probation and an appeal from the denial of
Williams' PCRA petition that was filed while the
revocation appeal was still pending. The PCRA petition does
not challenge any aspect of the probation revocation.
Instead, it is focused exclusively on the underlying trial
and conviction. Under Anderson, we conclude that
Williams was not precluded from filing his PCRA petition
while his appeal from the revocation of his probation was
to his petition, we note that we review the denial of
post-conviction collateral relief to determine whether the
PCRA court's findings are supported by the record and
free from legal error. See Commonwealth v. Small,
189 A.3d 961, 971 (Pa. 2018).
to reaching the merits of Williams' claim, we must first
consider the timeliness of his PCRA petition. See
Commonwealth v. Miller, 102 A.3d 988, 992 (Pa. Super.
2014). The time limitations of the PCRA are jurisdictional in
nature and, as such, a court cannot address the merits of an
untimely petition. See Commonwealth v. Robinson, 837
A.2d 1157, 1161 (Pa. 2003). All PCRA petitions
"including a second or subsequent petition shall be
filed within one year of the date the judgment [of sentence]
becomes final". 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 9545(b)(1).
original judgment of sentence became final on February 16,
2009, when the time to file a direct appeal with this Court
expired. See 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 9545(b)(3)
("[a] judgment becomes finals at the conclusion of
direct review, including discretionary review in the Supreme
Court of the United States and the Supreme Court of
Pennsylvania, or at the expiration of time for seeking the
review."); see also Pa.R.A.P. 903(a) (requiring
notice of appeal to be filed within 30 days after entry of
appealable order). His petition, filed 9 years later, is
patently untimely. Thus, the PCRA court lacked jurisdiction
to review Williams' petition unless he was able to
successfully plead and prove an exception to the PCRA's
overcome the PCRA's time-bar, a petitioner must allege
and prove one of three exceptions. See 42 Pa.C.S.A.
§ 9545(b)(1)(i)-(iii). Here, Williams argues that his
petition qualifies for the newly discovered facts exception.
The newly discovered facts exception provides:
(b) Time for filing petition. --
(1) any petition under this subchapter, including a second or
subsequent petition, shall be filed within one year of the
date the judgment becomes final, unless the petition alleges
and the petitioner proves that:
(ii) the facts upon which the claim is predicated were
unknown to the petitioner and could not have been ascertained
by the exercise of due diligence.
42 Pa.C.S.A. § 9545(b)(1)(ii). Even if this exception
applies, Williams' PCRA petition will only be considered
if it was "filed within 60 days of the date the claim
could have been presented." 42 Pa.C.S.A. §
concedes his petition is facially untimely, but contends he
satisfied the newly discovered facts exception to the
PCRA's time-bar. See Supplemental PCRA Petition,
filed 5/16/18, at ¶ 21 (asserting the initial petition
was timely pursuant to the newly discovered facts exception
to the PCRA time limitations). The PCRA court agreed, and
found Williams' petition satisfied the newly discovered
facts exception to the PCRA's 1-year time-bar.
See PCRA Court Opinion, filed 6/25/18, at 15-16. The
Commonwealth also agrees that Williams' petition meets
this exception. See, generally,
Appellee's Brief. Upon review of the PCRA court's
factual findings and conclusions related to the issue of
timeliness, we find no error or abuse of ...