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State v. Acevedo

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

June 13, 2014

State
v.
Anibal Acevedo

Providence County Superior Court. (P1/10-3274A). Associate Justice Sarah Taft-Carter.

For State: Virginia M. McGinn, Department of Attorney General.

For Defendant: Janice M. Weisfeld, Office of the Public Defender.

Present: Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and Indeglia, JJ.

OPINION

Flaherty, Justice.

A jury convicted the defendant, Anibal Acevedo, of multiple counts of child molestation, and he appealed to this Court. During the redirect-examination testimony of the complaining witness, who is a niece of the defendant's girlfriend, the trial justice allowed some nonspecific testimony

Page 168

about previous, uncharged acts of sexual misconduct. Before this Court, Acevedo argues that the trial justice erred when she allowed the admission of the testimony about prior bad acts. For the reasons set forth in this opinion, we affirm the judgment of conviction.

I

Facts and Travel

The complaining witness, Jennifer,[1] sad that she first met defendant when she was approximately ten years old. Jennifer's aunt and Acevedo lived together in Woonsocket with their only child; they would eventually have three children. According to her trial testimony, Jennifer and her siblings considered Acevedo to be their uncle. Jennifer would see defendant regularly when her extended family gathered, such as for birthdays and other holidays.

At trial, Jennifer testified about an incident that occurred when she was in the sixth grade. Jennifer was feeling ill and had been excused from school. The defendant picked her up because Jennifer's mother was working and unable to do so. Jennifer testified that defendant brought her to the house that he shared with Jennifer's aunt.

According to Jennifer, she retreated to her cousin's bedroom when she and defendant arrived at his empty house. The defendant eventually brought some Vicks ointment, ostensibly to help with her illness. However, Jennifer testified that defendant rubbed the ointment on her back as well as her breasts. She said that as he rubbed her chest, defendant " caress[ed]" her breasts under her bra and that he began rubbing her vagina outside of her clothes.

Jennifer also told the jury that defendant then laid her down on the floor and positioned himself on top of her. She testified that defendant unbuckled her pants and penetrated her vagina with his penis. Jennifer described how she screamed because of the pain, and she said that after it was over there was " blood everywhere," so defendant gave her a towel to clean up. Jennifer and defendant did not speak again that day, and when Jennifer's mother retrieved her from defendant's home, Jennifer did not reveal what had happened.

Jennifer also testified about another episode that occurred during the summer when she was between the sixth and seventh grades. Jennifer said that because defendant did not speak English, he would sometimes ask her to act as a translator for him. On one such occasion, Jennifer recollected, she was asked to accompany defendant to translate for him; it was her understanding at the time that they were going to an auto-parts store. Rather than going to the store, however, defendant drove Jennifer to a back road that did not have much traffic.

After parking and alighting from the car, defendant re-entered the vehicle through the passenger door and sat on the passenger seat with Jennifer. Jennifer testified that defendant then positioned himself behind her and touched her breasts and vagina. The defendant removed Jennifer's pants and underwear and penetrated her vagina with his penis. She explained to the jury that, as after the first occurrence, she did not say anything at that time about what had occurred.

At trial, Jennifer also recalled for the jury that her behavior during her early teenage years became more and more ...


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