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State v. Williams

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

May 9, 2017

STATE OF CONNECTICUT
v.
CHARLES WILLIAMS

          Argued February 14, 2017

         Appeal from Superior Court, judicial district of Hartford, Suarez, J. [motion for recusal]; Alexander, J. [plea proceeding].

          Donald F. Meehan, assigned counsel, with whom, on the brief, was Walter C. Bansley IV, for the appellant (defendant).

          Sarah Hanna, assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Gail P. Hardy, state's attorney, and Donna Mambrino, supervisory assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

          Lavine, Alvord and Beach, Js.

          OPINION

          ALVORD, J.

         The defendant, Charles Williams, appeals from the judgment of conviction, rendered after a jury trial, of one count of unlawful restraint in the first degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a-95. The jury found the defendant not guilty of two counts of sexual assault in the first degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a-70 (a) (1). Following the jury verdict, the defendant pleaded guilty to being a persistent serious offender in violation of General Statutes § 53a-40 (c). On appeal, the defendant claims that (1) there was insufficient evidence presented at trial to support his conviction of unlawful restraint in the first degree; (2) the trial court abused its discretion by denying his motion to reconsider his oral motion for recusal; and (3) the prosecutor violated his right to a fair trial by committed certain improprieties during closing argument. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         On the basis of the evidence presented at trial, the jury reasonably could have found the following facts. The victim[1] and the defendant met in 2001 and began dating in 2007. Over time, the defendant became physically, verbally, and emotionally abusive. On some occasions, the victim reported the defendant's abuse to the police, friends, or family, but, on other occasions, she did not report the abuse because she learned that she ‘‘had to kind of pick [her] battles'' with the defendant. In April, 2012, the victim decided to end her relationship with the defendant. The defendant was upset and began stalking the victim. During this period, the victim and the defendant filed police reports against each other, and, as a result of one of the defendant's complaints, the victim was criminally charged.[2]

         The victim thereafter moved from Bloomfield to Hartford and changed her phone number on several occasions. Nevertheless, the defendant continued to come to the victim's house and call her even though the victim told him that she did not want to be in a relationship with him and that she wanted him to stop contacting her. When confronting the victim, the defendant would often threaten to call the police and make false reports so that she would be taken away from her family.[3]During this period, the victim acquiesced on several occasions to having sexual intercourse with the defendant because she knew that he would leave her house afterward.

         On February 14, 2013, the victim was at home with her infant grandson (February 14 incident). The victim put her grandson down for his nap in her bedroom at 10 a.m. Sometime thereafter, while the victim's grandson was still napping, the defendant arrived at her house and began yelling at her because he believed that she was sleeping with other men. The victim asked the defendant to leave her house, but he continued to yell at her. The victim told the defendant that she was not sleeping with anyone else and asked him to speak more quietly because her grandson was taking his nap. The defendant demanded sexual intercourse and threatened to file a false police report against the victim if she did not have sexual intercourse with him.

         As the defendant advanced on her, the victim backed away from the defendant and into her bedroom. Following her into the bedroom, the defendant pulled a knife out of his pocket and told the victim to ‘‘stop acting up.'' The victim again asked the defendant to leave, but the defendant told the victim to perform oral sex on him because it was Valentine's Day. When the victim continued to refuse, the defendant grabbed the victim by her hair and threw her down on the bed, and the victim fell onto the floor.

         The victim began performing oral sex on the defendant. When the victim began crying, the defendant became angry and ordered her to stop crying because she was ‘‘making [him] soft.'' When the victim continued to cry, the defendant threw her on the bed, pulled down her pants, and vaginally penetrated her from behind while holding her down on the bed by her arms. When the victim heard her grandson crying, she asked the defendant to stop, but he continued to penetrate her until he ejaculated. The defendant complained that the victim ‘‘ruined his sex'' and then left her house.

         On February 28, 2013, the defendant returned to the victim's house while she was there with her daughters and grandsons (February 28 incident). The defendant demanded to know her new phone number and with whom she was having sexual intercourse. The situation escalated and the defendant punched the victim in the face, breaking her nose. Thereafter, the defendant left her house. The victim did not want to report the incident to the police, but one of her daughters called the police that same day. Although the victim spoke to the investigating officer and identified her assailant as a former boyfriend, she refused to provide the defendant's name at that time because she was afraid of him.

         Following the February 28 incident, the victim began living in domestic violence shelters and stopped going to her house and telling people where she was living in an attempt to get away from the defendant. During this period, the victim received medical and psychological treatment. Assisted by the psychological treatment she was receiving, in April, 2013, the victim decided to identify the defendant as her assailant in the February 28 incident. In September, 2013, the victim further reported the February 14 incident to the police.

         The defendant was arrested in connection with the February 14 incident and charged with two counts of sexual assault in the first degree and one count of unlawful restraint in the first degree. While the defendant was incarcerated and awaiting trial, he frequently spoke about his case with Elon Henry, a fellow inmate with whom he was previously acquainted. On December 5, 2014, three days before the defendant's trial was scheduled to commence, the defendant told Henry that ‘‘this girl [i.e., the victim] got me going through it right now. I'm a kill this girl . . . with my bare hands, and if I don't kill her I'm a get close and I'm a make her give me head for like an hour this time.'' The threatening manner in which the defendant spoke concerned Henry, and he reported the defendant's statement to a correctional officer that evening.

         Trial commenced on December 8, 2014. The defendant presented an alibi defense, supported by his own testimony and the testimony of his mother, his sister, his nephew, and his girlfriend's cousin. The jury found the defendant guilty of unlawful restraint in the first degree but not guilty of the two counts of sexual assault in the first degree. Following the jury verdict, the defendant pleaded guilty to being a persistent serious felony offender. The defendant was sentenced to ten years imprisonment. This appeal followed. Additional facts will be set forth as necessary.

         I

         We begin with the defendant's claim that there was insufficient evidence presented at trial to convict him of unlawful restraint in the first degree. Specifically, the defendant claims that there was insufficient evidence as to the elements of restraint and intent.[4] We disagree.

         We begin with the standard of review and legal principles that guide our analysis.[5] ‘‘In reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence to support a criminal conviction we apply a two-part test. First, we construe the evidence in the light most favorable to sustaining the verdict. Second, we determine whether upon the facts so construed and the inferences reasonably drawn therefrom the [finder of fact] reasonably could have concluded that the cumulative force of the evidence established guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. . . .

         ‘‘We note that the jury must find every element proven beyond a reasonable doubt in order to find the defendant guilty of the charged offense, [but] each of the basic and inferred facts underlying those conclusions need not be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. . . . If it is reasonable and logical for the jury to conclude that a basic fact or an inferred fact is true, the jury is permitted to consider the fact proven and may consider it in combination with other proven facts in determining whether the cumulative effect of all the evidence proves the defendant guilty of all the elements of the crime charged beyond a reasonable doubt. . . .

         ‘‘Finally, [a]s we have often noted, proof beyond a reasonable doubt does not mean proof beyond all possible doubt . . . nor does proof beyond a reasonable doubt require acceptance of every hypothesis of innocence posed by the defendant that, had it been found credible by the [finder of fact], would have resulted in an acquittal. . . . On appeal, we do not ask whether there is a reasonable view of the evidence that would support a reasonable hypothesis of innocence. We ask, instead, whether there is a reasonable view of the evidence that supports the [finder of fact's] verdict of guilty.'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Crespo, 317 Conn. 1, 16-17, 115 A.3d 447 (2015).

         ‘‘A person is guilty of unlawful restraint in the first degree when he restrains another person under circumstances which expose such other person to a substantial risk of physical injury.'' General Statutes § 53a-95 (a). ‘‘[T]he hallmark of an unlawful restraint . . . is a restraint.'' State v. Salamon, 287 Conn. 509, 530, 949 A.2d 1092 (2008). ‘‘As applicable to § 53a-95 (a), [p]er-sons are restrained when their movements are intentionally restricted so as substantially to interfere with their liberty, either (1) by moving them from one place to another, or (2) by confining them either to the place where the restriction commences or to the place where they have been moved without their consent. General Statutes § 53a-91 (1).'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Youngs, 97 Conn.App. 348, 354, 904 A.2d 1240, cert. denied, 280 Conn. 930, 909 A.2d 959 (2006).

         Furthermore, unlawful restraint in the first degree requires that the defendant had the specific intent to restrain the victim. State v.Salamon, supra, 287 Conn. 570. Specific intent is ‘‘an intent to bring about a certain result.'' Id., 572. Thus, to prove unlawful restraint in the first degree, the state must also ‘‘establish that the defendant had restricted the victim's movements intentionally and unlawfully in such a manner as to interfere substantially ...


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