January 3, 2017
from Superior Court, judicial district of Waterbury,
L. Cordani, Jr., assigned counsel, with whom was Damian K.
Gunningsmith, for the appellant (defendant).
Jennifer F. Miller, deputy assistant state's attorney,
with whom, on the brief, were Maureen Platt, state's
attorney, and Don E. Therkildsen, Jr., senior assistant
state's attorney, for the appellee (state).
Lavine, Keller and Beach, Js.
defendant, Casey Sinclair, appeals from the judgment of
conviction, rendered after a jury trial, of one count of
possession of narcotics with intent to sell by a person who
is not drug-dependent in violation of General Statutes §
21a-278 (b). The defendant claims that (1) the trial court
abused its discretion by admitting into evidence testimonial
hearsay in violation of his constitutional right to
confrontation, (2) the prosecutor committed multiple acts of
impropriety, and (3) the court abused its discretion in
admitting into evidence inadmissible ‘‘guilt by
association'' evidence. We affirm the judgment of the
jury reasonably could have found the following facts. The
defendant lived in the Bronx, New York and owned Sinclair
Enterprises, a business that sold used cars. Between October,
2012, and February, 2013, the defendant and his girlfriend,
Winsome Lawrence, drove to Connecticut approximately nine or
ten times in a Jeep to go to a mall in Waterbury. On February
5, 2013, as they did on every other trip, the defendant drove
the Jeep to Lawrence's house, and Lawrence drove the Jeep
to Waterbury while the defendant sat in the passenger seat.
they arrived in Waterbury, the defendant told Lawrence to get
off the highway at an exit and directed her to a side road.
Shortly thereafter, a black vehicle parked on the same side
of the road. The defendant opened the center console of the
Jeep, pulled a string, and took out two white parcels of
heroin. He gave the bags to an individual in the black
vehicle and walked back to the Jeep with money in his hands.
On his way back to the Jeep, the defendant saw a marked
police vehicle, and he threw the money into a bush. Lawrence
drove the defendant to a nearby gas station. At the gas
station, she heard the defendant say on his cell phone,
‘‘Jay, come and pick me up . . . I'm going
back for the money.'' The defendant then went into
the gas station, telling Lawrence that he needed to get a
black bag. After he returned to the Jeep, the black vehicle
mentioned previously came and picked up the defendant. The
defendant left the gas station for approximately ten
minutes. When he returned, he had a black bag
filled with money, and he told Lawrence to drive to the mall.
that day, at approximately 4:30 p.m., a detective with the
Waterbury Police Department received an anonymous tip that
‘‘activity'' was going to take place that
night in Waterbury. The detective relayed this information to
Gary Angon, a sergeant with the Water-bury Police Department.
On the basis of the tip, Angon assigned the officers in his
unit to survey the area around the mall. At approximately 8
p.m., Angon saw the Jeep. He radioed the officers, telling
them that he had observed a vehicle that fit the description
of the one that they were looking for. Angon pulled the Jeep
over, and the defendant appeared more nervous than most
people who interact with the police because he kept looking
up and down the street and hesitating when answering
Angon's questions. Angon asked the defendant who owned
the Jeep, and the defendant replied that ‘‘it was
thereafter, James Dickey, a detective with the Waterbury
Police Department, and Bella, Dickey's narcotics
detection canine, conducted a narcotics detection sweep of
the Jeep. Bella alerted Dickey to the center console of the
Jeep, and Dickey and Eric Medina, an officer with the
Waterbury Police Department, found a number of prepackaged
bags of heroin and a black bag filled with money in a trap in
the center console. The defendant and Lawrence were placed
defendant was charged with possession of narcotics with
intent to sell by a person who is not
drug-dependent. During the state's case-in-chief,
Angon testified about the police surveillance that ended with
the arrests of the defendant and Lawrence. He also testified,
over the defendant's objection, that during the course of
his investigation, he learned that the Jeep had been
inspected at Manny's Auto Repair, which was located next
to Sinclair Enterprises, the defendant's place of
business, in New York. Medina testified that he recovered
approximately 10, 000 bags of heroin, stored in ten bricks,
that were worth approximately $45, 000 to $60, 000 and a
black bag filled with cash worth $12, 248 in the Jeep.
Charmaine Henriques, Lawrence's cousin, testified that
she had spoken with the defendant after the incident, and he
told her that he ‘‘was trying a thing and g[ot]
testified for the state,  describing the drug transaction and the
events that took place at the gas station. Lawrence also
testified that the Jeep belonged to the defendant. The state
introduced into evidence a videotape that depicted Lawrence,
the defendant, and the black vehicle at the gas station. The
videotape also showed the driver of the black vehicle, and
Angon testified, over the defendant's objection, that he
recognized him as Terrence Saunders, a known heroin dealer.
defendant testified on his own behalf that, contrary to
Lawrence's testimony, he and Lawrence had only driven to
Connecticut on two occasions, the second time being the night
on which they were arrested. He testified that on the night
of the arrest, he and Lawrence were going to a casino but
decided to stop by the mall for dinner. Later, on direct
examination, he contradicted himself, testifying that they
went to Connecticut to meet a man named Paul because Paul
wanted to sell a vehicle to him. He testified that Paul was
in the black vehicle that picked him up at the gas station,
but that there were also two other men in the vehicle whom
the defendant did not know. He denied ever seeing the
narcotics or the money in the Jeep prior to their discovery
by the police. He also denied owning the Jeep, testifying
that the Jeep belonged to Lawrence.
January 30, 2015, the jury found the defendant guilty of
possession of narcotics with intent to sell by a person who
is not drug-dependent. The court sentenced the defendant to
eight years imprisonment, five years of which were mandatory.
This appeal followed. Additional facts will be set forth as
defendant first claims that the court violated his right to
confrontation when it admitted into evidence Angon's
testimony that the Jeep was inspected at Manny's Auto
Repair, located next to the defendant's business in the
Bronx, New York. Specifically, the defendant argues that
evidence of the inspection information was inadmissible
testimonial hearsay and that admitting the evidence was not
harmless error because the inspection location was a critical
piece of evidence linking the defendant to the Jeep. The
state argues that the evidence was not testimonial hearsay,
and even if it was, the state showed that the error was
harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. We conclude that even if
the defendant's right to confrontation was violated, any
violation was harmless error.
following additional facts are relevant to this claim. Angon
testified on direct examination that, on the basis of his
training and experience, a drug dealer often uses a vehicle
he owns during a drug transaction but registers it in someone
else's name. The dealer will also have someone else drive
the vehicle in order to ‘‘avoid any connection
with the drug.'' He also testified that narcotics are
often transported from New York to Waterbury. The state then
introduced into evidence a printout detailing the Jeep's
registration information, but neither the place of inspection
nor a code that related to the place of inspection was
included on the printout. Relying on the printout, Angon
testified that the Jeep was registered in New York to a man
named Victor A. Manana. The state asked Angon where the Jeep
was inspected, and defense counsel objected on the ground of
hearsay because Angon would be testifying about
‘‘information he gleaned somewhere
else.'' The court overruled the objection, and Angon
testified that the Jeep was inspected at Manny's Auto
Repair, which was a business located adjacent to the
defendant's business, Sinclair Enterprises.
defendant questioned Angon during cross-examination about how
he obtained the inspection information. Angon replied that
sometime in the last two days, someone in his
‘‘office contacted New York State police to see
if they could translate . . . the information that's on
the printout.'' Outside the presence of the jury, the
defendant moved to strike any and all of Angon's
testimony relating to the Jeep's inspection information.
The defendant argued that Angon's testimony was hearsay
because Angon testified about information he obtained from
someone in his office who obtained it from an unidentified
individual in New York. He also argued that admitting the
evidence violated Crawford. The state argued that a New
York officer had merely translated a ‘‘somewhat
confusing registration document . . . .'' The court
denied the motion to strike.
his case, the defendant testified that Manny's Auto
Repair was located on a lot next to Sinclair Enterprises, but
that the properties were separated by a fence and that he did
not have any ownership interest in Manny's Auto Repair.
On cross-examination, however, he admitted that he used
Manny's Auto Repair to perform repairs on the used cars
he sold. The state also put into evidence Sinclair
Enterprises' Internet site that advertised it as a
‘‘used car service and auto repair facility
located in the Bronx.''
appeal, the defendant argues that the court violated his
constitutional right to confrontation when it admitted
Angon's inspection testimony. The defendant argues that
Angon's testimony was hearsay because he obtained the
inspection information from an unknown individual working in
his office who obtained the information from someone working
for the ‘‘New York State police, '' and
the inspection information was used to prove the truth of the
matter asserted. He also argues that the evidence was
testimonial in nature because Angon received the information
during the course of his investigation, and the primary
purpose of the investigation was to prove events relevant to
a criminal prosecution. The defendant contends that the state
failed to meet its burden of showing that the constitutional
violation was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt because a
critical component of the state's case was linking the
defendant to the Jeep, and without the inspection
information, the case ‘‘rose and fell on
Lawrence's testimony and her credibility.'' We
disagree with the defendant and conclude that even if the
court abused its discretion in admitting Angon's
testimony, the state met its burden of showing that any
evidentiary error was harmless.
assume, without deciding, that the court abused its
discretion in allowing Angon to testify as to where the Jeep
was inspected because the evidence was testimonial hearsay.
‘‘When an [evidentiary] impropriety is of
constitutional proportions, the state bears the burden of
proving that the error was harmless beyond a reasonable
doubt. . . . If the evidence may have had a tendency to
influence the judgment of the jury, it cannot be considered
harmless.'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.)
State v. William L., 126 Conn.App. 472,
481, 11 A.3d 1132, cert. denied, 300 Conn. 926, 15 A.3d 628
(2011). ‘‘That determination must be made in
light of the entire record . . . .'' (Emphasis
added; internal quotation marks omitted.) State v.
Mitchell, 296 Conn. 449, 460, 996 A.2d 251 (2010).
such error is harmless in a particular case depends upon a
number of factors, such as  the importance of the
witness' testimony in the prosecution's case, 
whether the testimony was cumulative,  the presence or
absence of evidence corroborating or contradicting the
testimony of the witness on material points,  the extent
of cross-examination otherwise permitted, and, of course, 
the overall strength of the prosecution's case. . . .
Most importantly, we must examine the impact of the evidence
on the trier of fact and the result of the trial.''
(Internal quotation marks omitted.) State v.
Smith, 289 Conn. 598, 628, 960 A.2d 993 (2008).
we have often noted, proof beyond a reasonable doubt does not
mean proof beyond all possible doubt . . .
.'' (Emphasis added; internal quotation marks
omitted.) State v. Mourning, 104 Conn.App.
262, 267, 934 A.2d 263, cert. denied, 285 Conn. 903, 938 A.2d
594 (2007). Moreover, ‘‘[i]n determining whether
the defendant is guilty, it is the sole right of the jury as
the trier of the facts to draw all reasonable and logical
inferences from the facts as it finds them to exist. . . .
[I]n considering the evidence introduced in a case, [j]uries
are not required to leave common sense at the courtroom door
. . . nor are they expected to lay aside matters of common
knowledge or their own observation and experience of the
affairs of life, but, on the contrary, to apply them to the
evidence or facts in hand, to the end that their action may
be intelligent and their conclusions correct.''
(Internal quotation marks omitted.) State v.
Adorno, 45 Conn.App. 187, 195, 695 A.2d 6, cert.
denied, 242 Conn. 904, 697 A.2d 688 (1997).
demonstrate the defendant's guilt, the state was required
to prove that the defendant possessed and intended to sell
the narcotics found in the Jeep. See General Statutes §
21a-278 (b). The main issue in the case was whether the
defendant had constructive possession of the
narcotics. ‘‘[T]o prove illegal
possession of a narcotic substance, it is necessary to
establish that the defendant knew the character of the
substance, knew of its presence and exercised dominion and
control over it. . . . [When] . . . the [narcotics are] not
found on the defendant's person, the state must proceed
on the theory of constructive possession, that is, possession
without direct physical contact.'' (Internal
quotation marks omitted.) State v. Mangual,
311 Conn. 182, 215, 85 A.3d 627 (2014).
‘‘[K]nowledge of the presence of narcotics and
control may be proved circumstantially. . . . In situations
in which the putative offender is not in exclusive possession
of the premises where the narcotics are found, we may not
infer that he or she knew of the presence of the narcotics or
that he or she had control over them, without incriminating
statements or circumstances to support that
inference.'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.)
State v. Slaughter, 151 Conn.App. 340,
346-47, 95 A.3d 1160, cert. denied, 314 Conn. 916, 100 A.3d
testimony regarding the Jeep's inspection was meaningful
because it provided circumstantial evidence that the
defendant may have had an ownership interest in the Jeep,
which, in turn, supports the proposition that he knew about
and had control over the narcotics. After an examination of
the entire record, however, we conclude that the
state has proved that the error was harmless beyond a
reasonable doubt because the overall strength of the
state's case shows that the inspection information did
not have a tendency to influence the judgment of the jury.
state presented a significant amount of evidence which
directly, or indirectly, supported the charge that the
defendant knowingly possessed the narcotics in the Jeep.
Lawrence testified that she observed the defendant take two
white parcels out from the center console of the Jeep and
engage in a drug transaction with an individual in a black
vehicle. After the transaction, the defendant threw money
into a bush and told her to drive to a gas station. At the
gas station, she heard him say on his cell phone,
‘‘Jay, come and pick me up . . . I'm going
back for the money.'' The defendant told her to park
near a wall. He then went inside the gas station and
eventually returned to the Jeep. Then, the previously
mentioned black vehicle arrived and picked up the defendant.
She testified that when he returned, he had a black bag
filled with cash.
state also presented the video recorded at the gas station,
which depicted the following events. A tan Jeep with New York
license plates parked in a lit area of the side parking lot.
Approximately ten minutes later, the Jeep drove to the
opposite side of the gas station and parked near a wall in an
area with no lighting. While on his cell phone, the defendant
exited the Jeep, purchased a soda from within the gas
station, and returned to the Jeep. Approximately three
minutes later, a black vehicle parked in front of the gas
station. The defendant exited the Jeep and entered the
backseat of the black vehicle without shaking hands,
introducing himself, or otherwise acknowledging the
individuals in the vehicle, whom he claimed not to know.
Approximately ten minutes later, the black vehicle returned
and parked next to the Jeep, which was still in the unlit
area of the parking lot, and the defendant exited the black
vehicle and went back into the Jeep. In addition, the state
presented evidence that the police recovered $12, 248 worth
of cash in the Jeep, and, on the basis of Medina's
testimony that there was $45, 000 to $60, 000 worth of
narcotics in the Jeep, the jury reasonably could have found
that two bricks of narcotics was worth approximately $12,
000. This supports Lawrence's testimony that she saw the
defendant take out of the center console and sell two parcels
[a witness'] testimony [is] believable [is] a question
solely for the jury. It is . . . the absolute right and
responsibility of the jury to weigh conflicting evidence and
to determine the credibility of the witnesses.''
(Internal quotation marks omitted.) State v.
Rodriguez, 93 Conn.App. 739, 751, 890 A.2d 591
(2006), appeal dismissed, 281 Conn. 817, 917 A.2d 959 (2007).
The jury was free to credit Lawrence's testimony over the
defendant's testimony and draw any reasonable inferences
from it. Moreover, any inconsistencies in Lawrence's
testimony were fully explored by defense counsel on
cross-examination and during closing argument.
state also presented other incriminating evidence against the
defendant in addition to Lawrence's testimony. The
videotape showed that the driver of the black vehicle was a
known heroin dealer and that the narcotics found in the Jeep
were heroin. The anonymous tip that the police received
revealed that ‘‘activity'' was going to
take place in Waterbury, and, on the basis of the contents of
the tip, the police were instructed to survey the area around
the mall to look for a Jeep with New York license plates. The
police located the defendant near the mall in a Jeep with New
York license plates. When Angon pulled the Jeep over, the
defendant appeared more nervous than the average person who
interacts with the police. See State v.
Williams, 110 Conn.App. 778, 788, 956 A.2d 1176
(defendant's ‘‘nervous'' and
‘‘fidgety'' behavior one factor in
finding that defendant constructively possessed narcotics),
cert. denied, 289 Conn. 957, 961 A.2d 424 (2008). When
questioned by the police about who owned the Jeep, the
defendant stated that the Jeep belonged to ‘‘a
friend, '' and at the police station, he asked
Lawrence, ‘‘what did you tell police.'' A
few weeks later, he told Henriques that ‘‘I was
trying a thing and I g[ot] fucked.'' He also told
Henriques that Lawrence was not involved in the incident, but
gave Henriques $4000 to bail Lawrence out of jail. After
Lawrence was released from custody, the defendant promised
her that he would pay for her rent, although he never gave
her any money.
defendant's own testimony may have been damaging to his
case. He testified that he and Lawrence were on their way to
a casino, but then contradicted himself and testified that
they were actually going to Connecticut to speak to a man
named Paul about purchasing a vehicle. In response to the
prosecutor's question, ‘‘[the mall is in] the
opposite direction of the casino, [r]ight?'' the
defendant responded that he did not know how to get to the
casino from Waterbury. The defendant stated that he did not
know Paul's last name or any of the other occupants in
the black vehicle. He also testified that it took only ten
minutes for the defendant to be ...