CRIMINAL LAW

Sentencing • Sufficiency of Evidence

Commonwealth v. Mojica, PICS Case No. 14-0396 (C.P. Berks Jan. 30, 2014) Yatron, J. (7 pages).

Where a criminal defendant in a burglary case was apprehended fleeing from a vehicle that matched the description of the vehicle the fled the scene of the crime, and was found with items reported missing from the burglary, the sufficiency and weight of the evidence was enough to support the jury’s guilty verdict; and where the court gave careful consideration to the nature of the defendant’s crime and his prior criminal history and the failure of rehabilitative efforts, the court’s sentence outside the standard range was not unreasonable.

In the 1925(a) opinion, the trial court recommended the denial of defendant Ernie Mojica’s appeal from his conviction on various trespass, burglary, and conspiracy counts relating to two burglary incidents. In his 1925(a) statement, defendant alleged that the sentencing court abused its discretion by imposing a sentence of 20 to 80 years, that the sufficiency and weight of the evidence were not enough to establish each element of the charges or support the jury’s guilty verdicts, and that the trial judge committed error by allegedly presuming the guilty of the defendant during the question of a victim witness.

Defendant was arrested after police received a report of a residential burglary and the description of a vehicle that sped away from the scene of the burglary. Police stopped a vehicle that matched the description soon after, in which defendant was a passenger; defendant attempted to flee on foot but was apprehended by officers, who found items reported stolen from the burglary as well as reported stolen from another burglary that same evening. Police also found other items reported stolen from the burglaries in the vehicle in which defendant was a passenger.

The court argued that the sufficiency and weight of the evidence were enough to support the jury’s verdicts and overcome, as defendant argued, the presumption that defendant was a law-abiding citizen and was arrested for the crimes simply because he was a passenger in a vehicle that matched the description of the suspect’s vehicle at a time after the burglaries. The court noted that defendant attempted to flee apprehension, and was found with items reported stolen on his person.

The court noted that defendant had waived the issue of the trial judge’s alleged error by raising the issue for the first time in the appeal.

Finally, the court argued that, although its sentence was outside the standard range, it had properly considered the nature and effect of defendant’s crimes as well as the defendant’s prior history, which included four prior felony convictions for burglary, that demonstrated the ineffectiveness of rehabilitative efforts. Accordingly, the court argued that its sentence was not unreasonable or an abuse of discretion and therefore should not be disturbed.