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Kathrynne S. v. Swetz

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

August 20, 2019


          Argued May 20, 2019

         Procedural History

         Application for relief from abuse, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Hartford, where the court, Bozzuto, J., granted the application and issued a restraining order, from which the defendant appealed to this court. Affirmed.

          Stanley Swetz, self-represented, the appellant (defendant).

          Alvord, Bright and Bear, Js.


          PER CURIAM.

         The self-represented defendant, Stanley Swetz, appeals from the judgment of the trial court granting the application of the self-represented plaintiff, Kathrynne S., for relief from abuse and issuing a domestic violence restraining order pursuant to General Statutes § 46b-15.[1] On appeal, the defendant claims that the court improperly (1) determined that there was evidence of imminent physical harm or threat, (2) considered his invocation of his right against self-incrimination pursuant to the fifth amendment of the United States constitution as evidence (fifth amendment right), and (3) applied an incorrect standard of proof in granting the application.[2] We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         The following facts and procedural history are relevant to this appeal. On November 17, 2017, the plaintiff filed an application for relief from abuse against the defendant pursuant to § 46b-15. At the time of her application, the plaintiff resided with her life partner and his son, the defendant.[3] In her application, the plaintiff averred under oath that the defendant screamed in her left ear, verbally attacked her so forcefully that she would be covered in his spit, followed her throughout the house, opened windows on cold days, used derogatory language directed at her, threatened to sabotage her car, and barged into her room to take photographs of her in her nightwear, and that the defendant had been arrested for assaulting her in 2015.

         At the hearing on the plaintiff's application, on November 30, 2017, the plaintiff described the defendant's conduct as ‘‘constant intimidation and threatening and stalking . . . .'' The plaintiff also testified that the defendant struck her on two occasions, once in 2010 and again in 2015. In support of her claims, the plaintiff offered into evidence, to which the defendant objected, [4] a flash drive containing an audio recording of the defendant allegedly engaging in an eighteen minute ‘‘verbal rant'' against the plaintiff. The plaintiff further testified that she had gone to the Manchester police with the recording. The court then asked the defendant if he objected to its hearing of the recording given to the police and advised the defendant of his fifth amendment right. After the court's advisement, the defendant invoked his fifth amendment right with respect to the contents of the recording.[5] The court then stated that it inferred ‘‘that there is stuff on that tape he doesn't want this court to hear.'' The tape was not admitted into evidence.

         The plaintiff also presented the testimony of Brooke Clemons, a social worker for Manchester Protective Services for the Elderly. Clemons testified that the plaintiff had provided a video from her phone about the emotional abuse she received and that the plaintiff had told her that the defendant stole food and repeatedly stood right behind her and yelled in her ear. Clemons further testified that because of the plaintiff's disclosure, she opened two protective service cases: one on the plaintiff and one on her life partner. She also testified that she met with the plaintiff's life partner and he ‘‘supported everything that [the plaintiff] was telling [her] that was happening in the home'' and that ‘‘he would like to see his son leave.''[6] The defendant did not object to any of Clemons' testimony.

         In response, the defendant argued at the hearing that the plaintiff had not made any accusations of imminent physical harm in her application for the restraining order or in her presentation to the court. He also argued that the plaintiff had presented ‘‘no concrete day, time'' associated with her claims.

         At the conclusion of the hearing, the court orally rendered its decision granting the plaintiff's application for a restraining order. The court stated: ‘‘I do believe [the plaintiff], that she feels that her safety is at risk with [the defendant] being present in the home. I do believe that she feels intimidated and bullied and that her physical safety is in jeopardy. So, I think it's entirely appropriate to grant the relief requested.'' The court issued a full no-contact order for one year. This appeal followed. Additional facts will be set forth as necessary.

         As a preliminary matter, we note that although the restraining order expired on November 30, 2018, the defendant's appeal is not moot. In Putman v. Kennedy, 279 Conn. 162, 164-65, 900 A.2d 1256 (2006), our Supreme Court concluded that ‘‘the expiration of a domestic violence restraining order does not render an appeal from that order moot because it is reasonably possible that there will be significant collateral ...

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