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State v. Gansel

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

July 11, 2017

STATE OF CONNECTICUT
v.
HEATHER GANSEL

          Argued April 17, 2017

         Appeal from Superior Court, judicial district of Stamford-Norwalk, White, J.

         Procedural History

         Substitute information charging the defendant with the crime of larceny in the first degree, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Stamford-Norwalk and tried to the court, White, J.; judgment of guilty, from which the defendant appealed to this court. Affirmed.

          John R. Williams, for the appellant (defendant).

          Kathryn W. Bare, assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were, David Cohen, former state's attorney, James Bernardi, supervisory assistant state's attorney, and Joseph C. Valdes, senior assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

          DiPentima, C. J., and Lavine and Flynn, Js.

         SYLLABUS

         Convicted of the crime of larceny in the first degree by embezzlement, the defendant appealed to this court. The defendant, who owned two businesses, helped her grandparents, L and M, to manage their household finances and personal needs. After L died, M gave the defendant power of attorney to be her agent. After M sold her house and moved in with her son, the defendant's uncle, she deposited the proceeds from the sale of her house in a bank account that she jointly owned with the defendant for the purpose of allowing the defendant to have access to the funds to fulfill her duties as M's agent and to use the funds for M's benefit. Thereafter, the defendant transferred approximately $412, 400 from the joint bank account into her personal and business accounts, and she used more than $20, 000 of M's funds to pay for her own personal and business expenses. After M learned that a significant amount of her funds were missing, the defendant's uncle convened a family meeting at which the defendant admitted to having taken a portion of the missing funds and that she was willing to create a repayment plan to reimburse M. Shortly thereafter, the defendant sent two e-mails to her uncle in which she again admitted to having taken M's funds and reconfirmed her commitment to devising a repayment plan. The defendant also wrote a letter to M in which she promised to repay her the missing funds. On appeal, the defendant claimed that the trial court improperly admitted the inculpatory e-mails into evidence because they were not properly authenticated. Held that the defendant failed to show that the admission into evidence of the e-mails was harmful; even if the trial court abused its discretion by admitting the inculpatory e-mails into evidence, any error was harmless, as the e-mails were cumulative of other properly admitted evidence that independently provided a basis for the defendant's conviction, including the testimony of the defendant's uncle at trial that the defendant unequivocally admitted at the family meeting that she unlawfully had taken M's money, and the letter that the defendant wrote to M in which she had promised to repay her the missing funds.

          OPINION

          PER CURIAM.

          The defendant, Heather Gansel, appeals from the judgment of conviction, following a trial to the court, of larceny in the first degree by embezzlement in an amount more than $20, 000 in violation of General Statutes §§ 53a-119 (1), 53a-121 (b), and 53a-122 (a) (2). The defendant claims that the court abused its discretion by admitting into evidence certain inculpatory e-mails because they were not properly authenticated. Because we conclude that an evidentiary error, if any, was harmless, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         The following facts, which were found by the court in its oral memorandum of decision, [1] and procedural history are relevant to our resolution of the defendant's appeal. The defendant, who was a chiropractor and, for two years, the sole owner of two businesses, lived with her grandparents, Lou Sabini and Marietta Sabini, in her grandparents' house located in Stamford. Her grandparents had two children: the defendant's mother, Marilyn Gansel, and the defendant's uncle, Louis Sabini. The defendant helped her grandparents manage their household accounts and personal needs. On May 13, 2010, after Lou Sabini had died, Marietta Sabini gave the defendant written power of attorney to act as her agent. Marietta Sabini then sold the Stamford house and moved in with Louis Sabini. The defendant lived elsewhere but continued to manage Marietta Sabini's finances and personal needs.

         On June 22, 2010, Marietta Sabini received approximately $592, 539 in proceeds from the sale of her house. She deposited the money in a bank account she jointly held with the defendant (Wachovia account). All of the money deposited in the Wachovia account belonged solely to Marietta Sabini, and she only deposited the money in the Wachovia account so that the defendant could access the funds to fulfil her duties as Marietta Sabini's agent and to use the funds for Marietta Sabini's benefit. The two also jointly held a second bank account (ING Direct account). In addition, the defendant had her own personal account and two separate accounts for each of her businesses.

         On June 24, 2010, the defendant withdrew $262, 720 from the Wachovia account and deposited it into the ING Direct account. Between June 22, 2010 and October 17, 2012, the date of Marietta Sabini's death, the defendant transferred approximately $412, 400 from the Wachovia account and the ING Direct account into her personal and business accounts. In addition, she used more than $20, 000 of Marietta Sabini's money to pay for her ...


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