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State v. Maietta

Supreme Court of Connecticut

March 15, 2016

STATE OF CONNECTICUT
v.
JOHN MAIETTA

         Argued December 16, 2015.

          Information charging the defendant with violation of probation, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of New Britain, geographical area number fifteen, where the court, Baldini, J., denied the defendant's motions to suppress certain evidence; thereafter, the case was tried to the court, Baldini, J.; judgment revoking the defendant's probation, from which the defendant appealed.

          SYLLABUS

         The defendant, following a trial to the court, was found to have violated the terms of his probation that prohibited him from possessing or having access to firearms. The defendant had been placed on two years probation as part of a plea agreement in which he had pleaded guilty to harassment in the second degree and criminal trespass in the first degree for his actions toward D, his former girlfriend. Under the terms and conditions of his probation, the defendant was required to submit to searches by his probation officer and to comply with a standing criminal protective order that prohibited him from contacting D and from possessing firearms. The defendant also was required to sign a firearms disclosure statement in which he acknowledged that he was ineligible to possess firearms and asserted that he did not currently possess or have access to any firearms. Shortly thereafter, D contacted M, the defendant's probation officer with adult probation services, and informed him that she believed the defendant was in possession of firearms, specifically certain guns that the defendant took possession of following his appointment as the conservator of his father. D also told M that the defendant had told her that he kept a gun in a garage he rented in Newington. After M verified certain of the information concerning the guns registered in the name of the defendant's father, including that one of the guns had been transferred to the defendant, M received approval from his superiors to undertake a search of the defendant's garage in Newington. In accordance with the policy of adult probation services, certain members of the police community were assigned to provide protection to M and other probation officers while they conducted the search. Prior to conducting the search, M, accompanied by a police detail, went to the defendant's apartment, where the defendant denied that he had any firearms at that location but allowed M and the other probation officers to search the immediate area for guns. When M asked the defendant if he possessed any of his father's firearms, the defendant stated that one gun might be found in a dresser drawer in the Newington garage. The defendant voluntarily accompanied M and the search team to the garage where one of his father's guns was found in a dresser drawer. During the defendant's probation revocation hearing, the trial court denied the defendant's motion to dismiss, rejecting his claim that the condition of his probation that prohibited him from possessing a firearm violated his constitutional right to bear arms. Thereafter, the trial court denied the defendant's motions to suppress the handgun and his verbal statements to M and other members of the search team, finding that the exclusionary rule was inapplicable to probation revocation hearings. The trial court found that the defendant had violated the conditions of his probation, and rendered judgment revoking his probation. On appeal to this court, the defendant claimed, inter alia, that the trial court improperly admitted evidence obtained in violation of the fourth and fourteenth amendments to the United States constitution because the searches of his apartment and the garage were conducted for law enforcement, not probationary, purposes, and that the trial court therefore erred in not applying the exclusionary rule to suppress evidence of his statements and the handgun.

          Held :

         1. The trial court properly admitted the handgun found during the search of the defendant's garage and the statements the defendant made during the searches of his apartment and the garage: the exclusionary rule is inapplicable to probation revocation proceedings and, contrary to the defendant's characterization of the searches as law enforcement searches, the searches were planned probationary searches organized under the auspices of adult probation services to ensure the defendant's compliance with the terms of his probation and were conducted by M and other unarmed probation officers, not the law enforcement personnel who were present only for safety reasons and there was no egregious, shocking or harassing police misconduct warranting the application of the exclusionary rule to these probation proceedings; furthermore, the defendant's claim that the searches violated the separation of powers doctrine was unavailing, the record having demonstrated that although members of a shooting task force that was a coordinated effort between adult probation services and various members of the police community accompanied M during the searches, M was acting in his official capacity as a probation officer and not as a member of the shooting task force at the time of the searches.

         2. The defendant could not prevail on his claim that the evidence adduced at the probation revocation hearing was insufficient for the trial court to determine that the defendant violated the terms of his probation; following his guilty plea to the underlying criminal charges, the defendant acknowledged in writing that the terms of his probation included a provision that he could not possess or have access to any firearms and that he was required to comply with a standing criminal protective order that also barred him from possessing firearms, and despite being in possession of his father's handgun since before his conviction, he did not surrender that handgun, which was found during the search of the garage.

         3. The trial court did not abuse its discretion by admitting certain hearsay testimony regarding the purported transfer of the handgun from the defendant's father to the defendant, or by not allowing into evidence a memorandum that the defendant sought to have admitted to rebut the hearsay testimony thereby depriving the defendant of his right to present a defense; the rules of evidence do not apply to probation revocation hearings and relevant hearsay evidence is admissible at the discretion of the trial court, the hearsay evidence here was corroborated by D's testimony that the defendant had received his father's guns and the physical evidence of the handgun itself, and the trial court, after having determined that the memorandum offered by the defendant was an internal memorandum made in connection with a case investigation and not subject to disclosure under the rules of practice and that the defendant's witness did not have sufficient familiarity with the document to introduce it and attest to its authenticity, disallowed the memorandum as a full exhibit but allowed the defendant to question his witness on the contents of the memorandum.

         4. The defendant could not prevail on his claim that the condition of his probation barring him from possessing firearms contravenes his second amendment right to bear arms; the defendant waived his second amendment right when he voluntarily accepted the terms of his probation and manifested his assent on several occasions to the temporary restriction on the exercise of his second amendment right imposed by the condition that he could not possess firearms, and, had the defendant been fundamentally opposed to that particular condition, he was free to reject the offer of probation.

         Sandra J. Crowell, senior assistant public defender, with whom, on the brief, were Martin Zeldis, former public defender, and Jacob Pezzulo, certified legal intern, for the appellant (defendant).

         Timothy F. Costello, assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Brian Preleski, state's attorney, and Christian Watson, assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

         Rogers, C. J., and Palmer, Zarella, Eveleigh, McDonald, Espinosa and Robinson, Js. ESPINOSA, J. In this opinion the other justices concurred.

          OPINION

          [320 Conn. 681] ESPINOSA, J.

          The defendant, John Maietta, appeals from the trial court's finding that he violated his probation pursuant to General Statutes § 53a-32. On appeal the defendant argues that: (1) the trial court improperly admitted evidence obtained in violation of the fourth and fourteenth amendments to the United States constitution and the separation of powers doctrine; (2) the evidence is insufficient to demonstrate that he violated his probation; (3) the trial court's evidentiary rulings on hearsay evidence were an abuse of discretion and deprived him of his due process rights to confront witnesses and to present a defense; and (4) the condition of his probation making him ineligible to possess firearms ...


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