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State v. Ayala

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

July 24, 2018

STATE OF CONNECTICUT
v.
WALTER BOBBY AYALA

          Argued May 16, 2018

         Procedural History

         Substitute information charging the defendant with two counts of the crime of sexual assault in the fourth degree and with one count of the crime of risk of injury to a child, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of New Britain, geographical area number fifteen, and tried to the jury before the court, Keegan, J.; verdict and judgment of guilty, from which the defendant appealed to this court. Affirmed.

          Donald F. Meehan, with whom, on the brief, was Walter C. Bansley IV, for the appellant (defendant).

          Margaret Gaffney Radionovas, senior assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Brian Preleski, state's attorney, and Elizabeth M. Moseley, assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

          Lavine, Moll and Bishop, Js.

          OPINION

          BISHOP, J.

         The defendant, Walter Bobby Ayala, appeals from the judgment of conviction, rendered following a jury trial, of two counts of sexual assault in the fourth degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a-73a (a) (1) (A), and one count of risk of injury to a child in violation of General Statutes § 53-21 (a) (2). On appeal, the defendant claims that the trial court abused its discretion by failing to disclose redacted portions of the victim's mental health records following the court's in camera review of the records pursuant to State v. Esposito, 192 Conn. 166, 471 A.2d 949 (1984), thereby violating his sixth and fourteenth amendment right to confrontation. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         The following facts, which the jury reasonably could have found, and procedural history are relevant to this appeal. The defendant resided with the then twelve year old victim, [1] the victim's mother, and the victim's two younger siblings in an apartment in New Britain. The defendant was in a relationship with the victim's mother. During one unspecified night in March, 2011, the defendant came into the victim's room while she was sleeping on two separate occasions. During one encounter, he touched her buttocks, and during the other encounter, he touched the victim's vagina and attempted to pull down her pajama pants.[2]

         The incident was not reported to the police until April, 2012, when the victim disclosed the abuse to her father and his fiance´ while visiting them in New York. At this time, the victim spoke to a New Britain police officer over the phone. The victim's allegations prompted the New York Administration for Children's Services and the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (department) to conduct an investigation. Members of the department interviewed the victim as part of its investigation. The victim also received treatment at the Wheeler Clinic in Connecticut.

         The defendant was subsequently arrested and charged with two counts of sexual assault in the fourth degree in violation of § 53a-73a (a) (1) (A) and one count of risk of injury to a child in violation of § 53-21 (a) (2). Before trial, the defendant filed a motion to obtain records from the department and the Wheeler Clinic pertaining to the victim's mental health pursuant to State v. Esposito, supra, 192 Conn. 166, and State v. Bruno, 236 Conn. 514, 673 A.2d 1117 (1996), arguing that the records were probative of the victim's mental capacity to know or correctly relate the truth and had the potential to show motive or bias. The court granted the motion and, after the victim consented, the court conducted an in camera review of the victim's department file and her Wheeler Clinic file. The court found that portions of the records were probative of the victim's mental capacity to know or correctly relate the truth and had the potential to show motive or bias. As a result, the court disclosed redacted copies of the records to the defendant. At trial, the jury returned a verdict of guilty as to all charges. The court subsequently sentenced the defendant to a total effective sentence of eight years of incarceration and twelve years of special parole. This appeal followed. Additional facts will be set forth as necessary.

         We first address whether the defendant's claim that the court violated his right to confrontation by failing to disclose redacted portions of the victim's mental health records following its in camera review of those records is reviewable. We note, at the outset, that the defendant failed to preserve this issue at trial. Our Supreme Court has indicated that, when a court has conducted an in camera review and has disclosed only a portion of the material sought, it is necessary for the defendant to object to any of the court's redactions at the trial stage before raising the claim on appeal. See State v. Cecil J., 291 Conn. 813, 829 n.12, 970 A.2d 710 (2009) (noting that it was ‘‘incumbent'' on defendant to object to trial court's redactions at trial); State v. Harris, 227 Conn. 751, 761, 631 A.2d 309 (1993) (defendant objected to court's limited disclosure of personnel file after in camera review and challenged action on appeal).

         In his brief, the defendant asserts that ‘‘to the degree this claim is not preserved, '' he is entitled to review under State v. Golding, 213 Conn. 233, 567 A.2d 823 (1989), as modified by In re Yasiel R., 317 Conn. 773, 781, 120 A.3d 1188 (2015). Under Golding, ‘‘a defendant can prevail on a claim of constitutional error not preserved at trial only if all of the following conditions are met: (1) the record is adequate to review the alleged claim of error; (2) the claim is of constitutional magnitude alleging the violation of a fundamental right; (3) the alleged constitutional violation . . . exists and . . . deprived the defendant of a fair trial; and (4) if subject to harmless error analysis, the state has failed to demonstrate harmlessness of the alleged constitutional violation beyond a reasonable doubt. In the absence of any one of these conditions, the defendant's claim will fail.'' (Emphasis in original; footnote omitted.) State v. Golding, supra, 239-40. ‘‘The first two steps in the Golding analysis address the reviewability of the claim, while the last two steps involve the merits of the claim.'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Britton, 283 Conn. 598, 616, 929 A.2d 312 (2007).

         Golding's first prong is satisfied because the defendant has provided us with an adequate record to review his constitutional claim. Golding's second prong is also satisfied because an erroneous restriction on the defendant's access to a witness' confidential records ‘‘implicates the defendant's constitutional right to impeach and discredit state witnesses.'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.) State v.Bruno, supra, 236 ...


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