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State v. Manousos

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

January 23, 2018

STATE OF CONNECTICUT
v.
ANTHONY C. MANOUSOS

          Argued October 18, 2017

          Stephan E. Seeger, with whom, on the brief, was Igor G. Kuperman, for the appellant (defendant).

          Linda F. Currie-Zeffiro, assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Richard J. Colangelo, Jr., state's attorney, and Paul J. Ferencek, senior assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

          Keller, Prescott and Beach, Js.

          OPINION

          PRESCOTT, J.

         The defendant, Anthony C. Manousos, appeals from the judgment of conviction, rendered after a jury trial, of arson in the first degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a-111 (a) (1). The defendant claims that the trial court improperly (1) denied his motions to suppress various tangible items collected from him, as well as oral statements that he made to the police during an investigatory stop and subsequent patdown search for weapons; and (2) compelled him to disclose prior to trial the substance of the opinions of the expert witness he intended to call at trial. We disagree and, accordingly, affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         The jury reasonably could have found the following facts on the basis of the evidence adduced at trial. On December 3, 2014, at approximately 12:40 p.m., the Stamford police received a 911 call from Brenda Ortiz. Ortiz reported that the multifamily home located at 52 Highland Road, in which she rented the first floor apartment, was on fire. The property was owned by the defendant and was in need of substantial repairs. The defendant had been unable to sell the house despite repeated efforts to find a buyer.

         On that day, Ortiz had been asleep on the couch in her living room when she was awakened by a strong smell of gasoline. Unsure of where the smell was coming from, Ortiz headed toward the porch. The smell became even stronger as she walked into the foyer, so she propped open the foyer door to ventilate the area with fresh air.

         Ortiz then went back inside her apartment to call her husband. Once inside, she heard the foyer door slam shut, as well as footsteps on the stairs leading to the second and third floor apartment units. Ortiz went back into the foyer, where she saw ‘‘two legs and a pair of boots'' traversing up the stairs. She yelled out to the defendant, [1] who did not stop or respond. Although Ortiz could not see the defendant's face, she noticed that the person was wearing jeans and black boots.

         Ortiz went back inside her apartment and dialed 911. As she was dialing, she heard a loud explosion. Ortiz looked back into the foyer and saw a ‘‘fireball'' coming out of the stairwell. She also saw the defendant running down the stairs wearing the same jeans and boots she had observed just moments beforehand, as well as a black hooded sweatshirt.

         Ortiz then grabbed her car keys and ran outside, where she saw the defendant walking quickly down the sidewalk. She chased after him, yelling, ‘‘yo, what the fuck you just did?'' The defendant turned back, saw Ortiz, and took off running toward Grove Street.

         Ortiz then got into her truck and attempted to track him down. Unable to locate him, Ortiz drove back to 52 Highland Road and parked on the street. She then provided a description of the defendant to the 911 operator. Soon after, police and fire personnel arrived.

         Meanwhile, Sergeant Russell Gladwin of the Stamford Police Department was patrolling in his vehicle on Grove Street when he received a dispatch reporting a fire at 52 Highland Road. The dispatcher reported that the man suspected of starting the fire had taken off down Highland Road and was headed toward Grove Street.

         Gladwin responded to the call, as he was only a short distance away. As Gladwin turned right from Grove Street onto Highland Road, he encountered the defendant coming out of an empty grassy lot to his left. Gladwin stopped the defendant and asked where he was coming from. The defendant spontaneously offered to show Gladwin his driver's license.

         Officer Jonathan Rizzitello arrived in the area shortly after Gladwin. As Rizzitello approached, Gladwin gestured to him to handcuff the defendant. Rizzitello then conducted a patdown search for weapons, and seized the defendant's hooded sweatshirt and umbrella, which he was carrying, as well as two sets of keys and a box of wooden matches found in the defendant's jeans pocket.[2]

         Edward Rondano, a Stamford police officer assigned to the department's crime scene unit, also reported to the residence located at 52 Highland Road. A fire marshal pointed out to Rondano that there were two used matches on the floor in front of the stairway. Rondano collected the matches and stored them in plastic bags.

         At about 2:15 p.m., an arson investigator, Detective Paul Makuc of the state police, arrived at the residence. Upon entering the foyer, Makuc smelled gasoline. Makuc also saw an irregular burn pattern on the carpet covering the foyer stairwell. Specifically, Makuc noticed that the carpet on the top of the stairs was intact, although portions of the carpet on the lower half of the stairs had been destroyed by fire.

         Makuc believed that the irregular burn pattern indicated that an accelerant may have been poured on the staircase, suggesting arson. He therefore decided to secure the scene and apply for a warrant to search the residence, as well as the defendant's clothing and his girlfriend's white Mercedes, which was found parked a short distance down the street.

         After the warrants were issued, Makuc and his team reconvened and began their investigation. The team concluded that the basement, attic unit, and second floor units did not incur any interior fire damage, while on the first floor the foyer stairwell and closet directly beneath it were severely damaged.

         A trained canine aided Makuc in detecting the possible origin of the fire. In the stairwell, the canine alerted to both ends of the irregular burn pattern, indicating the presence of an accelerant such as gasoline. The canine did not alert to any other areas in the home, including the closet underneath the foyer stairwell. After completing their investigation of the residence, Makuc and his team members concluded that the fire originated in the foyer stairwell and was incendiary in nature-meaning that it was ‘‘set by human hands with the use of an ignitable liquid in conjunction with an ignition source consistent with an open flame . . . [such as] a match or a lighter.''

         Makuc and his team then returned to the Stamford police station, where they executed search warrants for the defendant's clothing items and his girlfriend's vehicle. Makuc's canine alerted to the defendant's black hooded sweatshirt, as well as to one of his boots. Makuc then searched the pockets of the sweatshirt and found two partially burnt wooden matches, a white cotton mask, and two cotton gloves. Forensic testing later confirmed the presence of gasoline on the gloves, boot, and hooded sweatshirt.

         In the trunk of the vehicle belonging to the defendant's girlfriend, Makuc found a white garbage bag containing a red, plastic five gallon gasoline can, as well as metal containers filled with Coleman fuel. Makuc also found an opened five-pack of white masks containing four of the five masks. Forensic testing later confirmed that the fibers from the masks found in the trunk were consistent with white fibers found in the defendant's beard.

         In the front console of the vehicle, the investigators found a receipt from Home Depot for a purchase dated December 3, 2014-the same day of the fire-for a five gallon plastic gasoline container. In addition, a pressure sprayer was found in the backseat of the vehicle. Forensic testing later confirmed the presence of gasoline in both the five gallon plastic container and the pressure sprayer.

         The defendant was subsequently arrested and, following a jury trial, convicted of arson in the first degree in violation of § 53a-111 (a) (1). He was sentenced to fourteen years of incarceration, followed by eleven years of special parole. This appeal followed.

         I

         The defendant first claims that the trial court improperly denied his motion to suppress the tangible items collected from his person, and oral statements that he made to the police following the investigatory stop and subsequent patdown for weapons conducted by officers Gladwin and Rizzitello. Specifically, the defendant argues that the police lacked a reasonable and articulable suspicion to stop him, as well as a reasonable belief that he may have been armed and dangerous. We disagree.

         The following additional facts, which the trial court found following an evidentiary hearing, and procedural history are relevant to this claim. On December 3, 2014, at approximately 12:40 p.m., Gladwin responded to a radio dispatch about a fire at 52 Highland Road. The dispatcher reported that the woman who called 911 had seen a Hispanic male wearing a gray sweater fleeing the scene.

         Gladwin, who was driving down Grove Street a short distance away, responded to the call. He reached Highland Road within twenty seconds of receiving the dispatch. Upon turning onto Highland Road, Gladwin saw the defendant walking out of an empty grassy lot about 300 feet from the fire. Although it was forty degrees and raining that day, the defendant was wearing only jeans and a T-shirt. The defendant was also carrying an umbrella and something that looked to Gladwin to be an outer garment.

         Gladwin rolled down his window and asked the defendant where he was coming from. The defendant gestured back toward the empty lot and stated ‘‘over there.'' The defendant then spontaneously offered to show Gladwin his driver's license, which listed a Nor-walk address. Gladwin noticed that the ...


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