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State v. Dijmarescu

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

May 22, 2018

STATE OF CONNECTICUT
v.
GHEORGHE DIJMARESCU

          Argued January 8, 2018

         Procedural History

         Substitute information charging the defendant with the crimes of assault in the third degree and breach of the peace in the second degree, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Hartford, geographical area number fourteen, where the court, Johnson, J., granted the motion to withdraw from representation filed by the defendant's counsel; thereafter, the matter was tried to the jury before Mullarkey, J.; subsequently, the court, Mullarkey, J., denied the defendant's motion to preclude certain evidence; verdict and judgment of guilty of breach of the peace in the second degree, from which the defendant appealed to this court. Affirmed.

          John L. Cordani, Jr., assigned counsel, for the appellant (defendant).

          Rita M. Shair, senior assistant state's attorney, with whom were Gail P. Hardy, state's attorney, and, on the brief, Michael J. Weber, Jr., senior assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

          Alvord, Prescott and Bear, Js.

          OPINION

          PRESCOTT, J.

         The defendant, Gheorghe Dijmarescu, appeals from the judgment of conviction, rendered after a jury trial, of one count of breach of the peace in the second degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a-181 (a) (2). On appeal, the defendant claims that the trial court (1) violated his sixth amendment right to counsel by improperly granting his attorney's motion to withdraw, (2) improperly admitted evidence of his uncharged misconduct, and (3) violated his right against self-incrimination by not canvassing him before he elected to testify. We disagree and, accordingly, affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         The jury reasonably could have found the following facts. The defendant and the victim, L, [1] both are accomplished mountaineers. In 2000, the two met at a party hosted by the governments of Pakistan and Nepal after L successfully summited Mount Everest. In May, 2002, the couple was married in Connecticut. They have two children.

         During their marriage, the defendant and L climbed Mount Everest together several times. The defendant also occasionally went on climbing expeditions by himself, leaving L and the children behind at their home in Connecticut. When he was not away, the defendant managed his own construction company, while L took care of the couple's two children and the defendant's ailing father.

         On July 1, 2012, L went grocery shopping and discovered that the family's food stamp card was not working. She called the defendant at work and he became angry. At about 7 or 8 p.m., the defendant arrived home. L was in the kitchen cutting an onion. The two then got into an argument regarding the food stamp card. At one point during the argument Lsaid something in her native language, and the defendant struck her.[2] The defendant then left the house and drove away in his truck.

         After the defendant left, L called her friend and told her that the defendant hit her. L's friend advised her to call the police. L then spoke with her brother, who called the police on her behalf.

         Shortly thereafter, the police arrived and interviewed L. An ambulance and medical personnel also responded to the scene, but L refused to go with them because they would not allow her daughters to ride in the ambulance with her. L then indicated to one of the police officers that she did not feel safe at her home, so an officer took her and her two daughters to a hospital emergency department and arranged for them to stay at a shelter. L's examination at the emergency department revealed that she had suffered no visible injuries to her head, but that she did have several scratches on her left forearm. L did not return to the marital home, and she and the defendant ultimately obtained a divorce.

         Shortly after the incident, the defendant was arrested and charged with assault in the third degree and breach of the peace in the second degree. He was subsequently tried before a jury. At trial, the defendant elected to testify in his own defense.[3]

         The jury found the defendant not guilty of assault in the third degree but found him guilty of breach of the peace in the second degree. He was sentenced to six months of incarceration, execution suspended, followed by one year of probation. Additional facts and procedural history will be set forth as necessary.

         I

         The defendant first claims that the trial court violated his sixth amendment right to counsel by granting the motion to withdraw filed by his private attorney, Raymond M. Hassett. Specifically, the defendant argues that the court improperly granted the motion to withdraw because the notice and good cause requirements set forth in Practice Book § 3-10 (a) were not met. Because we determine that, under the circumstances presented here, the defendant had no sixth amendment right to be represented by Hassett, our review of the defendant's claim is limited to whether the court abused its discretion in granting the motion to withdraw. We further conclude that the court did not abuse its discretion in granting the motion to withdraw.

         The following additional facts are relevant to the resolution of the defendant's claim. On July 17, 2012, the defendant was arraigned. On that day, Hassett filed an appearance on behalf of the defendant.

         On July 10, 2013, the defendant and Hassett appeared in court. At that time, Hassett requested that the court, Johnson, J., allow him to withdraw as counsel.[4] Hassett presented the court with a written motion, although he had not yet filed it. Hassett later filed the written motion to withdraw with the clerk's office.

         The court then held a hearing on Hassett's motion to withdraw. Hassett told the court that he previously had ‘‘numerous discussions with [the defendant]'' and that he ‘‘believed that there ha[d] been somewhat of a breakdown of communication . . . .'' Hassett further stated that the defendant had been adamant ‘‘from day one that he want[ed] to proceed to trial, '' and that Has-sett had ‘‘tried to prepare [the defendant] for trial and prepare the case for trial'' and had ‘‘met some resistance.''

         Hassett also represented that ‘‘the major reason why'' he was asking to withdraw from the case was that he had difficulty getting the defendant to cooperate with him. Hassett told the court that he had advised the defendant that he needed to make a decision regarding whether he wanted to proceed with the family violence education program. See General Statutes § 46b-38c (h) (1). When the defendant elected not to apply for the program, Hassett explained to him the possible ramifications of going to trial. Finally, Hassett stated that, despite the fact that he liked the defendant, he believed that his ability to represent the defendant had been compromised. The court then heard from the state, which asked it to move the case to the trial list if the defendant chose not to apply for the family violence education program.

         Next, the court asked the defendant whether he agreed that he could no longer work with Hassett, to which the defendant responded that he did not want Hassett to withdraw because he thought Hassett was an excellent attorney who could provide him with the ‘‘best representation . . . .'' The defendant further stated that, although he and Hassett had encountered some obstacles, he believed that they could be overcome.

         The court then canvassed the defendant regarding his opportunity to apply for the family violence education program and informed the defendant that if he successfully participated in the program he would have his charges dismissed. The defendant responded that Has-sett had informed him of the same many times, both verbally and in writing. The court then asked the defendant whether he understood that, if he proceeded to trial and was convicted, he faced the possibility of being sentenced to eighteen months incarceration and $3000 in fines. The defendant replied that he understood but nevertheless wanted to proceed to trial.

         After canvassing the defendant, the court concluded that ‘‘[b]ased on everything that I have heard, I am [going to] grant the motion to have counsel withdraw from the case. I agree with you. You have an excellent attorney. Your attorney probably has given you the best advice and has spent a considerable amount of time with you. At this time, he feels, based on his experience, that communication has broken down.'' The court then continued the case for approximately six weeks to allow the defendant time to hire a new attorney.

         On September 12, 2013, the defendant again appeared before the court. At that time, the defendant told the court that he had not yet retained an attorney because he no longer could afford one and wanted to represent himself. The court canvassed the defendant regarding the risks of representing himself and decided to allow the defendant to proceed as a self-represented litigant, with an attorney from the public defender's office acting as standby counsel. On April 9, 2014, however, the defendant was appointed a special public defender, Attorney Robert A. ...


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