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State v. Redmond

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

October 10, 2017

STATE OF CONNECTICUT
v.
PATRICK S. REDMOND

          Argued January 17, 2017

          Mitchell Lake, for the plaintiff in error.

          James A. Killen, senior assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, was David S. Shepack, state's attorney, for the defendant in error.

          Keller, Prescott and Harper, Js.

         Syllabus

         The plaintiff in error, C, who is the father of S, the defendant in the underlying criminal proceeding, brought a writ of error following the trial court's denial of C's motion for the return to him of certain property he claimed to own. The writ of error concerned various firearms and ammunition that were seized by police pursuant to a valid search warrant issued in the course of a narcotics investigation. S was arrested and later charged with various drug and weapons offenses. After engaging in negotiations, the state and S entered into a plea agreement, pursuant to which the state agreed to nolle six of the eight charges against S, and, in return, S agreed to, inter alia, forfeit the seized property to the state for destruction. Although C was not a party to the criminal action, C's awareness of both the plea negotiations and the contemplated forfeiture of the weapons was made clear to the court and the state through S's attorney. During the sentencing hearing, C did not object to the court's order for the forfeiture and destruction of the seized property. Subsequently, C filed a motion for stay of order of destruction and return of seized property with the criminal court. The trial court denied C's motion, and C appealed to this court, which dismissed his appeal on the ground that this court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to consider the claims in a direct appeal of the criminal conviction because C was not a party to the underlying criminal proceeding. Thereafter, C filed a petition for a writ of error in the Supreme Court, which transferred the matter to this court. C claimed, inter alia, that the trial court improperly ordered the forfeiture of the seized property pursuant to the statute (§ 54-36a [c]) that governs the disposition of seized property, which he claimed applied only to seized contraband and certain cash linked to illegal drug transactions, and not to firearms. C claimed that the trial court, instead, should have conducted in rem forfeiture proceedings pursuant to statute ([Rev. to 2013] § 54-33g) in order to effectuate the forfeiture of his seized firearms.

         Held:

1. The trial court properly acted pursuant to § 54-36a (c) in ordering the forfeiture of the seized property; that statute was not limited to contraband and certain cash linked to illegal drug transactions as claimed by C, but rather empowers courts presiding over criminal actions to dispose of seized property, provided a nexus exists between the seized property and the crimes charged, and, thus, so long as a nexus exists between the seized property and the crimes charged, it is irrelevant whether the property was contraband, and, in the present case, the court's determination that the requisite nexus existed between the seized firearms and S's narcotics business was logical and supported by the record, which showed that S was selling narcotics from a residence owned and co-occupied by C, that the weapons were found throughout the residence, and that S either possessed or had easy access to all of the weapons for use in his illicit business dealings.
2. C could not prevail on his claim that the trial court improperly entered the forfeiture order without providing him with notice and an opportunity to be heard, in violation of the in rem forfeiture procedures set forth in § 54-33g: that court properly ordered the forfeiture under § 54-36a (c), which does not require the court or the state to provide formal notice to any individual that may have an interest in seized property that is to be forfeited, and C was not deprived of an opportunity to be heard on the disposition of the property, as the record indicated that he was aware of the proposed disposition of the property and chose not to file a timely motion pursuant to the applicable rule of practice (§ 41-13) for the return of the seized property during the pendency of the criminal action and, instead, chose to assert his claim to the seized property after the final disposition of the criminal action; accordingly, the writ of error was dismissed.

         Procedural History

         Writ of error from an order of the Superior Court in the judicial district of Litchfield, Ginocchio, J., denying the motion for the return of certain property filed by the plaintiff in error, brought to the Supreme Court, which transferred the matter to this court. Writ of error dismissed.

          OPINION

          HARPER, J.

         This case comes before the court on a writ of error brought by the plaintiff in error, Patrick C. Redmond, who is the father of Patrick S. Redmond, the defendant in the underlying criminal proceeding.[1]In his writ of error, Redmond alleges that the trial court improperly (1) ordered the forfeiture of certain seized property pursuant to General Statutes § 54-36a and (2) entered its forfeiture order without providing him notice and an opportunity to be heard in violation of the in rem forfeiture procedures set forth in General Statutes (Rev. to 2013) § 54-33g.[2] For the reasons that follow, we disagree and dismiss the writ of error.[3]

         The following relevant facts and procedural history are apparent on the record.[4] This writ of error concerns sixteen firearms, [5] at least one magazine, and an unknown quantity of ammunition that were seized by the police on February 13, 2013, pursuant to a valid search warrant issued in the course of a narcotics investigation.[6] That investigation revealed that the defendant was selling drugs from a residence owned by Redmond, and occupied by both Redmond and the defendant. The residence was not subdivided, and Redmond and the defendant had equal access to all areas of the residence.

         During their search of the residence, the police found nine of the sixteen firearms ‘‘scattered about the living quarters, hidden in the seat cushions, in a dresser, leaned up against the walls, '' hidden under a couch in the living room, as well as in the defendant's bedroom. The remaining seven weapons were found in a safe on the second floor of the residence, which the defendant opened using a key in order to surrender the weapons to the police. Alongside these weapons, the police also seized various narcotics and narcotics paraphernalia. Redmond was not present for the search of the residence.

         Later that day, the defendant was arrested. After receiving Miranda[7] warnings, the defendant provided the police with a sworn statement in which he admitted his ownership of many of the seized weapons, and asserted that Redmond consented to his possession and use of the remaining weapons. The defendant also told the police that Redmond knew that he was selling narcotics from the residence and had previously asked him to cease doing so. Nothing in the record suggests that Redmond took steps to limit the defendant's access to the weapons.

         The defendant thereafter was charged with eight counts of drug and weapon offenses, [8] for which he faced a significant term of imprisonment if convicted. Over the next four months, the defendant engaged in plea negotiations with the state in which the court, Ginocchio, J., actively participated. During those negotiations, the defendant was represented by Attorney Anthony F. DiPentima. At that time, DiPentima also provided counsel to Redmond, though Redmond was not a party to the criminal action.[9] Redmond's awareness of both the plea negotiations and the contemplated forfeiture of the weapons was made clear to the court and the state through DiPentima, and it appears that Redmond was present for at least some of those negotiations. From the outset, the plea negotiations involved leveraging the disposition of the seized property to obtain a more favorable disposition of the charges against the defendant.

         On March 18, 2013, Redmond executed an affidavit, witnessed by DiPentima in his capacity as a commissioner of the Superior Court, claiming ownership of the seized weapons, ammunition, and magazine. This affidavit, however, was never submitted to the court or the state. The prosecutor also indicated that the agreement to surrender all of the disputed property in return for favorable treatment was suggested by DiPentima.

         On May 31, 2013, the state agreed to nolle six of the eight charges against the defendant. In return, the defendant agreed to (1) forfeit the seized property to the state for destruction; (2) plead guilty to one count of possession with intent to sell in violation of General Statutes § 21a-277 (b); and (3) enter an Alford plea[10] to one count of illegal transfer of a pistol or revolver in violation of General Statutes (Rev. to 2013) § 29-33.[11]At that time, the terms of the plea agreement were put on the record, including the forfeiture and destruction of the disputed property.[12] The agreement contemplated a total effective sentence of eight years, ...


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