Criminal Defense

Captured Fugitive Could Not “Reap the Benefit” of His Status When Appealing Burglary Conviction

Supreme Court of Connecticut: Criminal Law Matter

In a criminal law matter, the Supreme Court of Connecticut held that the fugitive felon disentitlement doctrine applies not just to fugitives in flight, but also those who are arrested prior to filing their appeals.

This case arose from an incident that occurred on April 27, 1999. The victim arrived at his workplace and discovered the unauthorized presence of the defendant, who immediately ran off. Police found that two computers were unplugged with their keyboards in the garbage. The defendant was charged and convicted of burglary in the third degree and attempt to commit larceny in the first degree.

However, prior to sentencing in December 2000, the defendant posted bond and fled to England, though he was rearrested and extradited to Connecticut. He once more posted bond and fled the country prior to his second sentencing date, was rearrested, and finally sentenced in November 2008. The defendant appealed his conviction, in part claiming insufficient evidence to convict for attempted larceny. However, the State argued that the defendant’s appeal should be wholesale dismissed because of the fugitive felon disentitlement doctrine.

Court’s Authority

The doctrine of fugitive felon disentitlement gives the court authority to dismiss a fugitive defendant’s appeal under certain circumstances. It is not accepted in all U.S. jurisdictions, and Connecticut has only addressed the doctrine in three cases where the fugitive filed his appeal while still on the run. Therefore, the Supreme Court set to the task of determining whether the doctrine applied to a fugitive who filed an appeal after being arrested, and if so, the scope of its application.

There are several rationales for the doctrine, only one of which applied in this context: “the promotion and protection of the dignified and efficient operation of the appellate system.” Courts want to ensure that defendants do not game the system through their fugitive status “by gaining unfair advantages due to the passage of time at the expense of the integrity of the appellate process.” In this case, the Supreme Court held that a fugitive’s post-arrest appeal may be dismissed if his conduct undermined the appellate process.

Thus, if the State seeks to assert the doctrine, it must show specific instances of prejudice caused by the fugitive’s flight, such as the loss of evidence or witness-related issues. If the State meets this burden, it is then shifted to the defendant, who must establish by a preponderance of the evidence that his flight was not prejudicial.

Court Decision

The Supreme Court found that in this case the State alleged sufficient evidence that the defendant could not rebut. “The appellate process has been prejudiced by the loss of trial exhibits and by the effect that the passage of time has had on the availability and reliability of witnesses.” Therefore, all of the defendant’s claims on appeal, including insufficiency of the evidence, were not reviewable because the doctrine applied.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.


When faced with a charge of larceny, burglary, or attempt, an individual is best served by consulting with an experienced criminal law practitioner. Should you have any questions regarding criminal defense, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

In Case Where Employee Abused Her Position to Embezzle Substantial Funds, Sentence Modification Was Denied

Superior Court of Connecticut: Sentence Review Division

In a criminal law matter involving sentence modification, the Sentence Review Division (Division) of the Superior Court of Connecticut affirmed the sentence of a petitioner who stole money from her employer.

Case Details

In this case, the petitioner had a criminal history involving embezzlement, larceny, forgery, and substance abuse. Despite knowledge of this past, the director of a non-profit organization hired the petitioner as its bookkeeper and office manager to give her a chance at an honest living. In this position, the petitioner had “unfettered access” to financial accounts belonging to the organization and director. Subsequently, various employees at the organization complained they were not being timely paid, and the director discovered not just an IRS tax lien on the organization’s assets, but a $20,000 unauthorized withdrawal from her personal account. Police investigated these financial irregularities and questioned the petitioner, and found that she had stolen at least $134,000.

The Trial

At trial for larceny in the first degree, the defendant entered into a guilty plea. She asked that her sentence be fully suspended and she be allowed to participate in an alternative to incarceration plan, but the court instead imposed twelve years of incarceration. The petitioner sought downward modification, arguing that her sentence was inappropriate and disproportionate compared to those who committed similar crimes. She asserted that she “cooperated with the police investigation, [was] contrite, willing to make restitution and was employed at the time of sentencing.”

The State opposed modification due to the defendant’s history of committing similar crimes. It noted how the defendant embezzled funds from a former employer, for which she received a five-year suspended sentence, and then violated her probation. The organization’s director also objected, stating that the sentence was proper because the petitioner “abused her position of trust, is unrepentant, and has caused a great deal of suffering.”

The Division declined to reduce the sentence, finding that under applicable statutes, it was neither inappropriate nor disproportionate. Indeed, the twelve-year sentence was within the parameters of the guilty plea, and the Division agreed with the trial court that “[i]t would stand justice on its head if I were to give you another suspended sentence after you already had one.”

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

When faced with a charge of larceny, an individual is best served by consulting with an experienced criminal law practitioner. Should you have any questions regarding criminal defense, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

Perpetrator Not “Beamed There By Martians” – Court Upholds Defendant’s Accessory Conviction

Appellate Court of Connecticut: Criminal Law Matter

In a criminal law matter involving a defendant’s accessory conviction, the Appellate Court of Connecticut rejected a defendant’s claim that the State presented insufficient evidence that she participated in a plot to steal nearly a quarter of a million dollars from her employer.

This case involved the February 22, 2005 theft of approximately $248,000 in cash from a bank located in New Britain. The interior of the location has little public access, and employees must first be buzzed into or use their key to access a “mantrap” before proceeding through another door to the employee area. This section of the store contains a bathroom and the safe room, and the only exit is to proceed back through the mantrap.

Case Details

The defendant was a store manager at the bank and was working alone for five and a half hours prior to closing. An hour before leaving the store, she received a phone call from a former district manager (former manager), who had been fired following a previous unsolved robbery at the bank years earlier.

The defendant counted the money in the safe, after which she closed down the store and set the alarm. Approximately thirty minutes later, motion sensors and alarms were rapidly triggered in reverse order from the safe room to the front door. The bank owners called the defendant, who was in the vicinity of the bank, and asked her to allow police into the building. When police arrived, they found no evidence of forced entry, but the money was gone and the defendant did not look or act surprised.

Telephone records revealed that the phone call received by the defendant prior to closing the bank was made from a cell phone in New Britain. She received two more calls from numbers belonging to the former manager: the first from a landline in Manhattan only minutes after the incident; the second twenty minutes thereafter once again from the cell phone, this time placed from the New Haven area.

Arrest Details

The defendant was subsequently arrested for accessory to larceny in the first degree, conspiracy to commit larceny in the first degree, and accessory to burglary in the third degree, in violation of General Statutes §§ 53a-8, 53a-122(a)(2), 53a-48, and 53a-103. The State’s theory of the case was that the defendant knowingly permitted someone to stay behind in the employee area prior to her departure. The defendant argued that one of the employees working earlier that day “could have let someone into the bathroom unbeknownst to [her].” The prosecutor countered that this was unreasonable:

“The idea of somebody sitting in this bathroom for five and one-half hours, waiting for business to close, is as ludicrous as saying that they were beamed there by Martians.”

The defendant was convicted on all counts and appealed, arguing that the State presented insufficient evidence identifying her as a participant, and therefore the jury convicted her “on the basis of mere speculation.”

Jury Details

When a jury considers the facts presented in a case, they are permitted to make reasonable and rational inferences stemming from those facts. “When we infer, we derive a conclusion from proven facts because such considerations as experience, or history, or science have demonstrated that there is a likely correlation between those facts and the conclusion.”

The more strained the correlation, the less reasonable the inference will be. In this case, the Appellate Court admitted that the evidence presented was scant, but still sufficient to support the convictions. The jury could reasonably infer that the defendant was knowingly involved in the scheme to steal the money from the bank, permitting someone to remain behind after she set the alarm and left for the night. Therefore, the Appellate Court affirmed the judgment.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

When faced with a charge of larceny, burglary, conspiracy, or accessory, an individual is best served by consulting with an experienced criminal law practitioner. Should you have any questions regarding criminal defense, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

State of Mind Hearsay Exception Did Not Apply to Letter Allegedly Condoning Larcenous Actions

Appellate Court of Connecticut: Larceny-Related Convictions

In a criminal law matter involving a hearsay exception, the Appellate Court of Connecticut affirmed the defendant’s larceny-related convictions, finding the trial court did not improperly exclude evidence.

In this case, the defendant was the victim’s resident health care aide. Over the course of two-and-a-half years, the defendant used the victim’s signature stamp to draft more than $300,000 in checks, drawn from the victim’s life savings, payable to herself and her relatives. When the victim was hospitalized, to his shock and dismay, he learned that his savings were wiped out. He had to obtain State financial assistance and could not return home, instead dying in a nursing home ten months later.

The defendant was charged with larceny in the first degree, larceny in the first degree by embezzlement, and larceny in the second degree. At trial, she attempted to introduce a letter drafted by her daughter, allegedly signed by the victim and permitting the transfer of money from him to the defendant. On the signature line was an “X,” and the daughter testified that she did not know who put it on the writing. The defendant admitted that the document was hearsay, but fell under the “state of mind” exception.

The State objected to its admission, arguing that it was past looking and lacked authentication, thus making it unreliable. The trial court agreed and sustained the objection. Subsequently, the defendant was convicted on all counts and appealed, arguing that the trial court improperly excluded the letter from evidence.

§ 8-3(4) of the Connecticut Code of Evidence

Under § 8-3(4) of the Connecticut Code of Evidence one will find the state of mind exception to the hearsay rule. This section provides:

[A] statement of the declarant’s then-existing mental or emotional condition, including a statement indicating a present intention to do a particular act in the immediate future, provided that the statement is a natural expression of the condition and is not a statement of memory or belief to prove the fact remembered or believed [will not be excludable hearsay].

In this case, the Appellate Court agreed that the document did not fall under the state of mind exception. The trial court did not err in excluding it from evidence, finding it not sufficiently reliable to qualify: the document could not be authenticated because the victim was dead, and the placement of the X could not be explained. Therefore, the judgment was affirmed.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

When faced with a charge of larceny, an individual is best served by consulting with an experienced criminal law practitioner. Should you have any questions regarding criminal defense, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

“The Fact That You Were An Attorney, Sir, Makes the Crime Worse,” Sentence Review Division Denies Modification Request

Superior Court of Connecticut: Sentence Review Division

In a criminal law matter, the Sentence Review Division (Division) of the Superior Court of Connecticut declined to modify a defendant’s sentence because it was neither inappropriate nor disproportionate.

In this case, the petitioner, an attorney, was hired by the complainants to provide services related to the sale of their home. The complainants gave him nearly $111,000 to pay off their mortgage, but the money was never tendered to the bank. The petitioner was charged with larceny in the first degree, a violation of General Statutes § 53a-122 with a maximum punishment of twenty years incarceration. He entered into a plea agreement, and the court sentenced him to twelve years incarceration, execution suspended after four years, with five years of probation and special conditions, including restitution.

Division Sentence Review

The petitioner sought a sentence reduction in light of his practice as an attorney aiding minorities, arguing that the sentence he received as inappropriate and disproportionate. When the Division reviews a sentence, it is without authority to modify unless the sentence is “inappropriate or disproportionate” when considering such factors as the nature of the offense and the character of the offender. In this case, the Division found that the trial court properly considered mitigating aspects of the petitioner’s background. It also noted, however, that he previously misappropriated a quarter of a million dollars of funds entrusted to him from a client. Citing the trial court:

The fact that you were an attorney, sir, makes the crime worse, not simply because you were a lawyer who committed a crime, but you committed a crime out of the breach of the very trust that was placed in you by your clients, and that is an aggravating factor.

The Division held that modification was not warranted in this case where “an attorney embezzled substantial funds from clients and the prior criminal history of the petitioner… reflects the same type of criminal behavior.” It additionally noted that the petitioner never paid restitution to the victims between the time he entered into the plea agreement and sentencing. Therefore, the sentence was affirmed.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

Should you have any questions regarding criminal defense, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

Trial Court Did Not Err in Rejecting Irrelevant Evidence; Appellate Court Upholds Conviction

In a criminal law matter involving irrelevant evidence, the Appellate Court of Connecticut affirmed a defendant’s convictions following a traffic stop that revealed reckless driving.

Case Details

This case arose from an incident that occurred on March 14, 2006. Bethel police initiated a traffic stop to investigate the defendant’s dump truck and trailer for properly displayed plates. The plates were present but obscured, and officers immediately noticed a wire hanging from the rear of the trailer. Upon further inspection of the trailer, officers determined that the wire was disconnected, from the trailer’s independent braking system.

Furthermore, it did not appear to be connected to the dump truck or “any other source that could have provided power to the trailer’s brakes.” Officers requested that the defendant demonstrate whether or not the trailer’s brakes operated, but the defendant refused to comply. Officers cited the defendant for reckless driving, driving with obscured license plates, and failing to carry a valid insurance card. Upon the arrival of a tow truck, the defendant relinquished his keys and stated to the tow-truck driver, “There’s still no brakes [on the trailer] with you towing it.”

The Defendant’s Motion

The defendant submitted a motion seeking to introduce Connecticut statutes and agency regulations as evidence that the officers lacked authority to inspect his trailer’s brakes. He also proffered evidence that “demonstrated a sense of bias against the defendant among [other] officers that had filtered throughout the Bethel police department and affected the credibility of the officers who were at the scene and who testified during the state’s case-in-chief.” The trial court denied the motion, saying the evidence was irrelevant. Subsequently, the defendant was convicted of the three cited charges as well as interfering with an officer. He appealed, arguing that the trial court abused its discretion in denying his motion.

Connecticut Police Officers

In Connecticut, police officers have the duty to enforce our laws and preserve the peace. “If [an officer] is acting under a good faith belief that he is carrying out that duty, and if his actions are reasonably designed to that end, he is acting in the performance of his duties.” Quite notably, such duties are not merely restricted to the arrest function. In this case, the Appellate Court reviewed the statutes and regulations offered by the defendant but was not persuaded that the officers did not have authority to inspect the brakes on his trailer. Therefore, it concluded that preclusion of this evidence was not an abuse of discretion by the trial court.

Importance of Evidence 

Evidence is relevant if it makes the existence of a material fact more or less probable, so long as it is neither unduly prejudicial nor cumulative. However, it is the duty of the proffering party to establish relevance with a proper foundation. In the context of impeachment evidence, this may be accomplished in one of three ways: an offer of proof, independent establishment by the record itself, or statement of good faith believe that the inquiry is justified by an adequate factual basis.

In this case, the defendant failed to provide any connection between evidence of bias and the lack of credibility of the officers involved in this case. Rather, his claims were purely speculative, and “[i]t is entirely proper for a court to deny a request to present certain testimony that will further nothing more than a fishing expedition… or result in a wild goose chase.” Therefore, the judgments were affirmed.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

Should you have any questions regarding criminal defense, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

State Presented Sufficient Evidence that Defendant “Intended to Convert the Property to His Use Without Paying For It”

In a criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut affirmed the defendant’s conviction for sixth-degree larceny, as he had the requisite intent to commit the crime.

Case Background

This case arose from an incident that occurred on May 5, 2005. The defendant purchased a foam poster board from Staples in Fairfield, but as he was exiting the main store into the foyer, he was not carrying it. Instead, he was observed scooting a box with an item he did not pay for along the floor beneath the theft detection sensors located adjacent to the exit doors. The defendant scooped it up and proceeded outside, with store employees in pursuit. When one yelled at him to “drop the box,” the defendant placed it on a nearby dolly and quickly left the area. Inside the box was “a Uniden telephone, in its original packaging, that was offered for sale” at the store.

Another Staples customer observed the defendant getting into a vehicle and driving off. She informed the store manager, who wrote down the license plate and called police. Officers identified the owner as the defendant’s girlfriend and proceeded to her residence, where they located the car (which had signs of recent use) but not the defendant. Soon thereafter, the defendant turned himself in and provided police with a signed written statement in which he accepted responsibility for his actions.

Sixth Degree Larceny

The defendant was charged with larceny in the sixth degree by shoplifting, and for being a persistent larceny offender. At trial, the defendant testified that he came across the box inside the store and immediately returned it to a sales associate. He denied leaving the store with the box or having knowledge of its contents, and stated he never intended to leave the store without paying for it.

The sales associate and store manager provided a much different version of the events. The jury returned a guilty verdict on the larceny count, and the defendant pled guilty to the second, resulting in three years’ incarceration. On appeal, the defendant contended that the State provided insufficient evidence that he had the requisite intent to commit larceny.

Under Connecticut General Statute (CGS) § 53a-119, “[a] person commits larceny when, with the intent to [permanently] deprive another of property or to appropriate the same to himself or a third person, he wrongfully takes, obtains, or withholds such property from an owner.” Larceny is considered a specific intent crime, so the State must provide direct or circumstantial evidence (most often the latter) that the defendant possessed a “subjective desire or knowledge that his actions constituted stealing” at the time of the crime.

The Court’s Decision

In this case, the Appellate Court determined that the defendant confused sufficiency and credibility issues. He appeared to argue that all of the testimony was identical. However, this is an inaccurate reading of the trial court record, for there were vast discrepancies between the testimonies given by the defendant and State’s witnesses. It is the province of the jury to weigh the credibility of witness testimony and believe all of it, some of it, or none of it.

Thus, the jury was within its right to credit the testimony of the State witnesses, and such testimony, along with the defendant’s written statement, provided sufficient evidence that the defendant intended to take the phone without paying for it.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

When faced with a charge of larceny, burglary, conspiracy, or attempt, an individual is best served by consulting with an experienced criminal law practitioner. Should you have any questions regarding criminal defense, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

Defendant’s “Dastardly Overall Scheme of Personal Greed” Did Not Warrant Sentence Modification

In a previous article, a petitioner was convicted of arson in the first degree, larceny in the first degree, insurance fraud, and conspiracy after burning down his home and receiving nearly $400,000 from insurance payouts. For his crimes, he was sentenced to a total effective sentence of thirteen years of incarceration (upwards of thirty-three years if he violated probation). Approximately one year after conviction, the petitioner sought a downward modification of his sentence, claiming it was inappropriate and disproportionate.

Downward Sentence Modification

In front of the Sentence Review Division (Division), counsel for the petitioner argued that his client was of good moral character. He highlighted the petitioner’s substantial consecutive work history and lack of a criminal history prior to this incident. Therefore, the counsel stated that a ten-year sentence was proper. The State, however, objected to modification, noting “both the seriousness of the offense and the ample evidence to convict.” In addition, the State argued that emergency personnel could have been injured as a result of the fire intentionally set by the defendant.

Pursuant to the Connecticut Practice Book § 43-23 et seq., the Division has authority to modify sentences only upon a showing that they are:

[I]nappropriate or disproportionate in light of the nature of the offense, the character of the offender, the protection of the public interest and the deterrent, rehabilitative, isolative and denunciatory purposes for which the sentence was intended.

The court that originally sentenced the defendant characterized the defendant’s actions as a “two-part crime; the torching of the home and the bilking of the insurance company.” Such conduct was “part of a dastardly overall scheme of personal greed.” The Division credited the defendant’s fortune that no one was injured during this incident, but nonetheless agreed that the sentence was neither inappropriate nor disproportionate.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

Should you have any questions regarding criminal defense, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

How Long Can I Be Incarcerated for Contempt of Court in a Divorce Case for Failure to Pay Support?

Incarceration depends on what the contempt involves and the specific facts of your case.  Every state has a strong interest in ensuring that child support is paid and may impose strict punishments for failure to comply with a court order for child support.  If a judge finds contempt for separate issues, such as failure to pay child support and failure to pay alimony, then the judge may impose jail time for each instance until you comply with the support.  If you cannot comply with the support order because your finances have changes since the order was issued, you may modify the order.

Please contact Joseph C. Maya, Esq. at (203) 221-3100 or e-mail him directly at JMaya@Mayalaw.com if you have any questions regarding divorce or family law in Connecticut.

Where Defense Counsel Invited Error, He Could Not Then Demand a Mistrial

In the article “Jury Could Reasonably Infer That Defendant Withheld Fact She Participated in Robbery In Order To Receive State Benefits,” the defendant did not succeed in her claim that the State presented insufficient evidence to convict her of fraudulent receipt of worker’s compensation benefits. In her appeal, she additionally argued that because an officer improperly referenced the defendant’s request for counsel during his testimony, the court should have declared a mistrial but failed to do so.

During cross-examination, defense counsel pressed the officer regarding whether he had taken a statement from the defendant following the robbery, asking variants of the same question. The officer consistently stated he did not take a statement, and upon repeat questioning, clarified that he had not done so because the defendant asked for an attorney. Defense counsel did not object to this testimony, and it was the judge who pointed out, outside the presence of the jury, the potential constitutional issue of referencing the counsel request.

At this point, defense counsel made an oral motion for a mistrial, arguing that the statement was improper and non-responsive. The court denied the motion, finding that the officer’s testimony was “sort of responsive,” and instead instructed the jury to disregard the officer’s testimony about the defendant’s request for counsel.

Motion for a Mistrial

Declaring a mistrial is an extreme measure granted in very few situations, such as prejudice undermining the right to a fair trial. If the court can implement a curative action to counter the prejudice, oftentimes through a jury instruction, this is the preferred course of action. It is within the trial court’s discretion to grant or deny a motion for a mistrial, and the defendant “bears the burden of establishing that there was irreparable prejudice to the defendant’s case such that it denied him a fair trial.”

However, if the error claimed by the defendant resulted from questioning on his part during cross-examination, “[s]o long as the answer is clearly responsive to the question asked, the questioner may not later secure a reversal on the basis of any invited error.”

The Court’s Decision

In this case, the Appellate Court determined that defense counsel invited the error. By repeatedly asking the officer whether he had taken a statement from the defendant, despite consistent negative answers, defense counsel “opened the door for [the officer] to explain why there was no statement.”

In addition, the defendant failed to show how she was denied a fair trial. The judge gave a curative instruction to disregard the statement, and “[a]bsent evidence to the contrary, we presume that the jury followed the court’s limiting instruction.” The Court further noted the strength of circumstantial evidence against the defendant. Therefore, this argument on appeal was rejected as well, and the judgment affirmed.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

When faced with a charge of larceny, burglary, conspiracy, or attempt, an individual is best served by consulting with an experienced criminal law practitioner. Should you have any questions regarding criminal defense, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.