Pennsylvania Superior Court on Tuesday upheld a sentence of 88 to 244 months imposed on an Altoona man who was convicted of a series of local burglaries in 2018.
Ryan Matthew Wolf, 42, who was convicted in 2020 by a Blair County jury for his role in three of many bar robberies, appealed saying his sentence was “excessive and unduly harsh”.
He accused sentencing judge Wade A. Kagarise of failing to consider that he suffered from drug and alcohol problems at the time and that no one had been harmed by his crimes.
The defence, led by Altoona lawyer Douglas Keting, argued that the crimes involved property offenses and therefore the sentence was “inconsistent with the protection of the public, the seriousness of the offenses in terms of the impact on the lives of victims and the community, and the rehabilitation needs of the accused.”
Kagarise, in his opinion, took an opposite view, stating, “We believe that crimes of this nature tend to have a significant impact on victims and the court believes this is an important factor to consider when determining the sentence.”
The judge noted that eight burglaries in a short time involved small business burglaries.
These burglaries caused “a lot of anxiety” among business owners and the community, Kagarise said.
He said he took into account that Wolf had a family, but also observed that he had a long criminal history.
“Thus, this court believes that we have considered all the facts of the case,” he stated.
He called his phrase “fair and reasonable”.
A three-judge Superior Court panel explained that Wolf was convicted of three counts of burglary, three counts of receiving stolen goods, eight counts of criminal mischief and one count of possession of an instrument of crime.
The judge sentenced Wolf under standard Pennsylvania sentencing code guidelines, but as the Superior Court wrote, the law says a sentence must be vacated if it involves circumstances. “where application of the guidelines would be clearly unreasonable.”
The Superior Court panel, comprising Justices James G. Colins, Megan Sullivan, and Mary P. Murray, ruled, “We do not find that the (de Wolf) case involves circumstances ‘where application of the guidelines would be clearly unreasonable’.
In upholding the sentence, the appeal court judges said that Kagarise “maturely thought out” the pre-sentence report and Wolf’s rehabilitation needs.
Although Wolf’s appeal focused on the length of his sentence, he also took issue with how he landed in court in the first place.
Faced with an increasing number of burglaries, the municipal police created a surveillance detail focused on neighborhood bars.
Detective Derrick Tardive was parked in an unmarked car in the neighborhood of the Black and Gold Tavern on 30th Street at 6 a.m. on October 21, 2018 when he noticed a Kia Sorrento driving slowly, then stopping in front of the tavern for a long period. of time.
For the detective, there was no reason for a car to stop at the intersection, noting that there was no traffic or pedestrians in the area.
He decided to do a vehicle stop, and when he looked inside the Kia, Wolf was in the back seat, and on the floor was a black lever, a power drill, black gloves, cutters. bolts and another unidentified tool.
Two male occupants of the car, which was driven by a woman, were dressed in dark clothing and Wolf had a winter mask stuffed under the baseball cap he was wearing.
Tardive made no arrests, but based on what he saw, police mounted the criminal case the following month that led to the trio’s arrest.
The defense argued that the officer conducted an unlawful traffic stop – that the detective’s suspicions of criminal activity that led to the arrest were misplaced and unreasonable.
The defense argued that Kagarise should have suppressed the evidence that led to Wolf’s arrest.
Kagarise ruled that this traffic stop was “legally appropriate” detective based “reasonable experience, observations and inferences.”
The Superior Court Panel concluded, “We believe that the finding of the trial court is correct. Detective Tardive had a reasonable suspicion of stopping the vehicle in question.
Wolf is currently serving his sentence at Pine Grove State Correctional Facility in Indiana County.