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Commonwealth v. Sexton

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

October 28, 2019

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
SEAN SEXTON Appellant

          Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence December 14, 2017 In the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County Criminal Division at No(s): CP-51-CR-00007512016

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

          OPINION

          STEVENS, P.J.E.

         Appellant Sean Sexton appeals from the judgment of sentence entered in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County on December 14, 2017, following his convictions of Intimidation of Witnesses or Victims, Terroristic Threats with Intent to Terrorize Another and Stalking.[1] We affirm.

         The trial court aptly set forth the relevant procedural history and facts herein as follows:

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Between May of 2015 and May of 2016, [Appellant] was arrested and charged with various offenses under four separate Bills of Information. At CP-51-CR-0005229- 2015, [Appellant] was arrested on May 4, 2015, and charged with, inter-alia, Rape by Forcible Compulsion1 and numerous other related offenses. At CP-51-CR-0011605-2015, [Appellant] was arrested on August 5, 2015, and charged with Simple Possession.2 At CP-51-CR-0000751-2015, [Appellant] was arrested on November 17, 2015, and charged with 1) Intimidation of Witnesses or Victims, 3 2) Terroristic Threats with Intent to Terrorize Another4, and 3) Stalking.5 At CP-51-CR-0010608-2016, [Appellant] was arrested on May 16, 2016, and charged with Forgery.6
On May 18, 2017, by agreement of counsel, 7 [Appellant] proceeded to trial only on the two bills of information relating to the charges of rape and witness intimidation.8 At the conclusion of his waiver trial, on May 19, 2017, [Appellant] was found guilty on the charges of witness intimidation, terroristic threats and stalking. [Appellant] was found not guilty on all rape related charges.
Prior to the commencement of his sentencing hearing on September 21, 2017, [Appellant] entered into non-negotiated pleas of guilty on the remaining open charges of simple possession and forgery.9 At the conclusion of his sentencing hearing, [Appellant] was sentenced to a period of confinement in a state correctional facility of 7 to 15 years on the charge of witness intimidation followed by five years['] probation. On charges of terroristic threats, stalking, simple possession and forgery [Appellant] was sentenced to concurrent periods of probation of 5 years each, to be served consecutively to his period of confinement, for an aggregate period of confinement of 7 to 15 years followed by 5 years['] probation.
On September 25, 2017, [Appellant] timely filed a Motion for Post Sentence Relief pursuant to the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure, Pa.R.Crim.P. 720(A)(1), seeking an arrest of judgement, [sic] a new trial, or, in the alternative, a reconsideration of his sentence pursuant to Pa.R.Crim.P. 720(B)(1)(a)(ii), (iv) and (v). The [c]ourt, after a hearing held on December 14, 2017, denied [Appellant's] motions seeking a new trial. However, on considering [Appellant's] argument, the [c]ourt modified [Appellant's] sentence, imposing an aggregate sentence of 6 ½ to 13 years['] incarceration followed by 5 years['] probation.
On January 2, 2018, [Appellant] timely filed the instant appeal to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania.10 On January 8, 2018, this [c]ourt filed and served on [Appellant] an Order pursuant to Rule 1925(b) of the Pennsylvania Rules of Appellate Procedure, directing [Appellant] to file and serve a Statement of Errors Complained of on Appeal, within twenty-one days of the [c]ourt's Order. On January 15, 2018, [Appellant] timely filed his statement of "Matters Complained of on Appeal."
EVIDENCE AT TRIAL
The complaining witness, [A.Y.], [2] testified that she had been best friends with [A.L.] since 2013, when they were both in the ninth grade. Eventually, beginning in April of 2015, they drifted apart when [A.L.] went to live with her aunt. During their friendship, she frequently visited [A.L.] at her home on Reed Street in the City of Philadelphia, which she shared with [Appellant]. (N.T., 5/19/17, pgs. 13-17, 25)
[A.Y.] testified that, during their friendship, [A.L.] confided in her stories of being sexually molested by [Appellant]. (N.T., 5/19/17, pgs. 14-18) After [A.L.] eventually reported the assaults, [A.Y.] became a witness involving charges of rape and sexual assault against [Appellant].11 On April 28, 2015, as part of their investigation into the sexual assault charges, she gave a formal statement to the Special Victims Unit of the Philadelphia Police Department, with regard to their conversations. (N.T., 5/19/17, pgs. 13, 14, 18, 40)
Subsequently, in October of 2015, [A.Y.] testified that, as she approached her normal bus stop on her way to school, she encountered "Graffiti" reading; "[A.L.] is lying about rape." (N.T., 5/19/17, pgs. 21, 24, 46) After this incident, a school friend texted her a picture of "Graffiti" written on the bench at her bus stop, again reading: "[A.L.] is lying about rape." In addition to these two pieces of "Graffiti," she encountered a third piece, written on a trashcan at the bus stop, reading; "Kill Squill." She testified that "Squill" is a "nickname me and [A.L.] had that we called each other. It's in SpongeBob" and that [Appellant] was aware of this. (N.T., 5/19/17, pgs. 21-23, 43, 44, 47, 48)
She also testified that this stop was known to [Appellant], as he "did see me at the 25 bus stop before. He was walking past. He said some of his friends lived near there." (N.T., 5/19/17, pg. 42) She also testified that, being scared by the "Graffiti," she told her mother, who then called the police to report it. (N.T., 5/19/17, pgs. 46, 49, 50)
[A.L.], testified that, after her father's death in 2010, [Appellant] was appointed as a co-guardian and moved into the family home to care for her and her brother. (N.T., 5/18/17, pgs. 49-52, 96) She continued to live in the home with [Appellant] until April of 2015, when she eventually told her aunt that she had been sexually abused by [Appellant]. (N.T., 5/18/17, pgs. 62, 65)
[A.L.] testified that, commencing in 2013, she began confiding the details of this abuse, in [A.Y.]. (N.T., 5/18/17, pgs. 61, 62) She also testified that [A.Y.] had been to her house multiple times and was well known to [Appellant] (N.T., 5/18/17, pg. 77)
Although she did not personally see the "Graffiti," she testified that [Appellant] "was big into graffiti," they had "spray painted my walls" and that she was familiar with and knew [Appellant's] handwriting. Comparing the photographs of the "graffiti" to a note previously written to her by [Appellant], she identified the writing in the "Graffiti" as that of [Appellant]. (N.T., 5/18/17, pg. 72, 73, 75, 78, 135-137, 139)
She also testified that she did not use the bus stop where the "Graffiti" was found, stating that it is used by [A.Y.] every day to go to school. She also identified "Squill" as "a term of endearment. It's a nickname me and my friend had come up [with] for each other. It's actually silly. We were really young, it was freshman year. It's from SpongeBob, Squilliam." It was a nickname she used frequently in her home, in referring to [A.Y.]. (N.T., 5/18/17, pg. 72, 73, 75, 78)
1 18 Pa.C.S.A. §3121(a)(1)
2 35 Pa.C.S.A. §780-113(a)(16)
3 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 4952
4 18 Pa C.S.A. §2706(a)(1)
5 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 2709.1
6 18 Pa.C.S.A. §4101
7 (N.T., 5/18/17, pgs. 9-12)
8 CP-51-CR-0005229-2015 and CP-51-CR-0000751-2015
9 CP-51-CR-0011605-2015 and CP-51-CR-0010608-2016
10 [Appellant] is only appealing his conviction at 51-CR-0000751-2015 on the charges of witness intimidation, terroristic ...

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