The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

March 12, 2013

Court accepts deadly weapon enhancement

By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer

MERCER COUNTY — Superior Court said Friday a Mercer County judge properly imposed a deadly weapon enhancement when sentencing a former Sharon woman for hitting a Farrell woman in the forehead with a drinking glass.

Alicia A. Harris, 31, was convicted by a jury last April on charges of two counts of simple assault and one count of reckless endangerment, and not guilty of two counts of aggravated assault.

Southwest Mercer County Regional police said Harris argued with a woman March 25, 2011, over Harris smoking marijuana in the woman’s home in the 1100 block of Emerson Avenue, Farrell.

Harris punched the victim in the face several times and hit her with the drinking glass, causing a cut that required four stitches to close, officials said.

Mercer County Common Pleas Court Judge Thomas R. Dobson sentenced Harris to 9 to 24 months in state prison. The minimum standard sentence without the deadly weapons enhancement under state sentencing guidelines is 3 to 12 months, while deadly weapon enhancement kicks it up to 9 to 12 months.

Harris appealed, saying the deadly weapons enhancement should not have been imposed because the jury acquitted her of aggravated assault by use of a deadly weapon, meaning that it found she did not use the drinking glass to hit the victim.

“(A)n acquittal on the aggravated assault charges does not preclude a conviction for recklessly endangering another person and the deadly weapon enhancement,” said Superior Court Judge Jacqueline O. Shogan, writing for a three-judge panel.

In looking at the definitions of the crimes in which Harris was charged, aggravated assault requires an attempt to cause serious bodily injury, while reckless endangerment does not, Shogan said.

“The jury could reasonably have found that the injury did not rise to the level of serious bodily injury,” he said. “Additionally, the jury could have reasonably concluded that (Harris) did not attempt to cause serious bodily injury or did not intend to cause bodily injury.”

The court added that the constitution does not require that the jury make the finding of deadly weapon use.

“Aside from a prior conviction, only facts that increase the penalty for a crime beyond the statutory maximum must be submitted to a jury and proved beyond a reasonable doubt,” Shogan said. “Here, the penalty for recklessly endangering another person, which was graded as a misdemeanor of the second degree, was not increased beyond the statutory maximum of 2 years.”