Sentencing • Probation • Sufficiency of the Evidence

Commonwealth v. Lafond, PICS Case No. 14-0104 (C.P. Lehigh Jan. 17, 2014) Steinberg, J. (19 pages).

The court denied the commonwealth’s motion to reconsider the sentence and granted the defense motion for acquittal. Lafond was found guilty of numerous drug and weapons charges. At sentencing, he was placed on 36 months probation with the first 90 days under house arrest. The sentence was a deviation from the sentencing guidelines and the commonwealth filed a motion to reconsider alleging that the sentence was excessively lenient. Lafond contended that the commonwealth’s position was retaliation for Lafond asserting his innocence and he alleged that the evidence was insufficient and the verdict against the weight of the evidence.

In July 2010, a citizen told a police officer that he observed four black males with handguns in a parked burgundy Buick. The officer went to the location, saw an unoccupied burgundy Buick and four black males eating in a nearby restaurant who disappeared rapidly when the officer turned his back. A detective responding to the call found the vehicle locked, observed what he thought was marijuana on the car floor, and obtained a search warrant for the vehicle.

The vehicle was registered to Lafond and was parked about two blocks from his address. The vehicle was towed to a garage and searched. The police recovered a gun loaded with .38 caliber ammunition, marijuana from the floor and two small bags of marijuana in the console area, totaling 167.2 grams. No fingerprints were found on the revolver and the partial prints found on the marijuana bags were not Lafond’s. Mail addressed to Lafond was found in the glove compartment and in the trunk and approximately 300 photographs were in the car, some of Lafond. Most of the mail was dated 2010 and, although none of the photographs were dated, some were apparently shot prior to 2009.

Lafond was found guilty of 35 P.S. § 780-113(a)(16), 18 Pa. C.S. § 6106(a)(1),(c) and 18 Pa. C.S. § 6105(a)(1), and not guilty of 35 P.S. § 780-113(a)(30). The presentence report showed the disqualifying event for the persons not to possess charge was a juvenile adjudication for robbery The report also showed that Lafond had suffered a stroke, incident to a brain injury from a gunshot wound, almost a year prior to the charge.

Lafond’s medical records were introduced into evidence at sentencing. His prior record score was almost exclusively the result of a juvenile adjudication in 2002. The medical records and his demeanor at sentencing showed that his life has been severely affected by a stroke, including his ability to walk and articulate cogent thoughts. Although his adult probation officer recommended that he be sent to state correctional institution, the court correctly concluded that, even if Lafond was ever a danger to the community, he was so no longer; public safety was not compromised by a probationary sentence and Lafond’s rehabilitative needs would be better served in the community.