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Fiona C. v. Kevin L.

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

July 12, 2016

FIONA C.
v.
KEVIN L. [*]

          Argued Date May 12, 2016

         Appeal from Superior Court, judicial district of Danbury, Ozalis, J.

          Bruce Seeliger, for the appellant defendant.

          Beverley Rogers, for the appellee plaintiff.

          DiPentima, C. J., and Mullins and Jongbloed, Js.

          OPINION

          DiPENTIMA, C. J.

         The defendant, Kevin L., appeals from the judgment of the trial court granting the application for a civil protection order pursuant to General Statutes § 46b-16a filed by the plaintiff, Fiona C. On appeal, the defendant raises interrelated claims that (1) the court improperly interpreted General Statutes § 53a-181d, the stalking in the second degree statute, and (2) under the proper interpretation of that statute, the plaintiff failed to present sufficient evidence to warrant the granting of her application for a civil protection order. We agree with the defendant and, accordingly, reverse the judgment of the trial court.

         The following facts, as found by the trial court, and procedural history are relevant to our discussion. On August 31, 2015, the plaintiff filed an application for an order of civil protection, alleging that she had been the victim of stalking. She requested that the court order that the defendant (1) not assault, threaten, abuse, harass, follow, interfere with or stalk the plaintiff, (2) stay away from her home, (3) not contact her in any manner, (4) stay 100 yards away from her and (5) be educated at a different educational facility from the one she attended, or be home schooled. The court granted the application and issued an ex parte civil protection order.

         The court held a hearing on September 10, 2015. At the outset, the court noted that both the plaintiff and the defendant were under the age of eighteen. The plaintiff testified that she and the defendant attended the same school starting in the first grade. They were in the same class in the third grade, and according to the plaintiff's testimony, an incident occurred at that time. Specifically, the plaintiff testified that the defendant had threatened her by stating that he wanted to slit her throat. As a result, she felt scared and after telling her teacher about this event, the principal removed the defendant from the plaintiff's class. The plaintiff further testified that although the defendant eventually returned to her third grade class, there were no further threats made against her either that year or during the fourth and fifth grades when the parties were at the same school but in different classrooms. According to the plaintiff, during her sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth grade years, the defendant was enrolled in a different school. There was no interaction between the two during that time.

         In the tenth grade, the plaintiff transferred to an alternative high school with a single classroom, a kitchen and an office. Less than ten students attend this school. In the spring of 2015, the plaintiff learned that the defendant would be transferred to her school when the new school year started in August, 2015. After hearing this, the plaintiff, who still feared the defendant, became concerned. She informed the coordinator of the alternative school of her past history with the defendant and her present concerns for her safety.

         On the third day of school, both the plaintiff and the defendant were present. The plaintiff informed the administration that she could not attend school if the defendant was present. The plaintiff then went home. The direct examination concluded with the plaintiff's testimony that the defendant hada reputation for threatening other students and ‘‘was not a good person.''

         On cross-examination, the plaintiff acknowledged that the last time she had been threatened by the defendant was in the third grade. Upon questioning from the court, the plaintiff indicated that the defendant's threatening to ‘‘kill'' other students and his bullying of other students occurred throughout elementary school. The plaintiff heard of threats made by the defendant against others while in high school. The plaintiff's father then testified, after which the plaintiff's counsel rested.

         During a colloquy with the court, the plaintiff's counsel conceded that there had been no recent interactions between the plaintiff and the defendant. After a recess, the court concluded that it needed further evidence in order to reach a decision on the plaintiff's application.[1]The court continued the order of protection until the next court date.

         On October 7, 2015, the hearing resumed. The court heard testimony from various school administrators. During a recess, the court reviewed, in camera, certain school records of the defendant.[2] After the hearing resumed, the court noted the following on the record: ‘‘The [school] records reflect threatening statements by [the defendant] in the second grade, third grade, [and] fourth ...


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