A blog of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section

By Burt Rose

Click to download Opinion C v. Sinott

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has decided the case of COMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania, Appellant v. Daniel SINNOTT, 2011 WL 5175769, No. 11 EAP 2010 (Nov. 2, 2011). This was an appeal from a Judgment of the Superior Court entered on 6/23/2009, Commonwealth v. Sinnott, 976 A.2d 1184, 1189 (Pa.Super.2009), No. 158 EDA 2008 affirming in part and reversing in part the Judgment of Sentence entered by Judge Thomas Dempsey in the Court of Common Pleas, Philadelphia County, Criminal Division at No. CP–51–CR–00078913–2007. The Justices were CASTILLE, SAYLOR, EAKIN, BAER, TODD, McCAFFERY, and ORIE MELVIN. Justice EAKIN wrote the Opinion for a unanimous court.

The Commonwealth was appealing the ruling of the Superior Court (per Judge Bender) reversing appellee Daniel Sinnott’s conviction for ethnic intimidation on the basis of insufficient evidence. The ethnic intimidation statute provides:

(a) Offense defined.—A person commits the offense of ethnic intimidation if, with malicious intention toward the race, color, religion or national origin of another individual or group of individuals, he commits an offense under any other provision of this article … with respect to such individual or his or her property or with respect to one or more members of such group or to their property.

* * *

(c) Definition.—As used in this section “malicious intention” means the intention to commit any act, the commission of which is a necessary element of any offense referred to in subsection (a) motivated by hatred toward the race, color, religion or national origin of another individual or group of individuals.

The issue was whether, to prove ethnic intimidation pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S. § 2710, the Commonwealth must prove the defendant targeted the victim solely based on the victim’s race, color, religion, or national origin. Neither the Superior Court nor the Supreme Court had specifically addressed that issue. . Here, the appellee was angry at the victim’s father when he assaulted her, yet he also used ethnically degrading remarks as he did so. The Court held that § 2710’s intent element is satisfied if there is evidence that ethnic malice was a motivator for the defendant’s criminal act; it need not be the sole motivator.

Attorney Victor Rauch of Philadelphia represented the appellee.

The Free Student Research Center is now OPEN. It will be open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, from 9AM to 3PM. The Free Student Research Center is available for use by attorneys who are current members of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section and who are court-appointed to the case for which they seek research (either state or CJA!).

The Free Student Research Center is located in the Jack Myers Memorial Lounge on the Third Floor of the CJC. You may make a research request in person or via the Criminal Justice Section website at http://www.philadelphiabar.org/page/CJResearch

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