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Guilty Verdict in State College Terroristic Threats and Fire Arms Case

On Behalf of | Sep 27, 2013 | Terroristic Threats

Michael Afuwape of Philadelphia was found guilty of terroristic threats and firearms not to be carried without a license following a non-jury trial before Judge Pamela Ruest in the Centre County Court of Common Pleas on September 24, 2013.  Police alleged that when a Penn State student inadvertently bumped into Mr. Afuwape during the 2012 Blue and White Game weekend, Mr. Afuwape lifted his shirt to reveal a hand gun, and threatened to shoot the student. The Penn State student and his three friends ran into McDonald’s at College and Sowers and called 911. Afuwape was arrested shortly thereafter.

The form of terroristic threats of which Mr. Afuwape was convicted entails communicating, either directly or indirectly, a threat to commit a crime of violence. Pursuant to the Pennsylvania Crimes Code, terroristic threats is a first degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 2.5 to five years incarnation and a $10,000 fine. Usually, a defendant with no prior record stands a good chance of receiving a sentence of probation if convicted of terroristic threats, however, if Judge Ruest finds that this defendant used a deadly weapon while committing the terroristic threat, the Pennsylvania Sentencing Guidelines call for at least six months in jail. If Judge Ruest concludes that the defendant merely possessed the handgun, but did not use it in the course of the terroristic threat, then the Sentencing Guidelines call for at least three months of incarceration. Afuwape is not subject to the five year mandatory minimum sentence for violent crimes committed with a firearm, because terroristic threats is not defined as a “crime of violence” under the Pennsylvania Judiciary and Judicial Procedure Code.

“Firearms not to be carried without a license” is one of those crimes with a built-in definition of the offense. It can be charged as either a third degree felony or first degree misdemeanor. In this case, it was charged as a third degree felony because Mr. Afuwape committed another crime while in possession of the firearm. Had he 1) been eligible for a firearms license, but failed to obtain one, and 2) he had not committed any other crime, then it would have been charged as a first degree misdemeanor. Under Pennsylvania law, third degree felonies are punishable by a maximum sentence of 3.5 to seven years incarceration and a $15,000 fine. A person convicted of the third degree felony version of “firearms not to be carried without a license” with no prior record is normally facing either a county jail sentence, or even a “short” state prison sentence.

Mr. Afuwape also was charged with DUI for driving drunk the same night as the gun incident, so I would anticipate that his lawyer will argue at sentencing that Mr. Afuwape would not have acted aggressively had he been sober. Unfortunately, Mr. Afuwape’s legal troubles did not end with the gun incident. He has since been convicted of two DUIs in Philadelphia in 2013. Thus, I would expect the Centre County District Attorney’s Office to concede that alcohol may have influenced his behavior, but that his repeated bad behavior when drinking continues to pose a danger to the public.

Matt McClenahen is a criminal defense lawyer in State College, Pennsylvania, home of Penn State University.


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