Providence County Superior Court
"Oh what a tangled web we weave, when we practice to deceive."
For Plaintiff: Robert Testa, Esq.
For Defendant: Michael DiChiro, Jr., Esq.
VAN COUYGHEN, J.
This matter is before the Court for decision on two consolidated cases following a non-jury trial. Post-trial memoranda were submitted and reviewed. Jurisdiction is pursuant to G.L.1956 § 8-2-14.
Facts and Travel
These cases provide insight into the business considerations associated with illegally selling drugs. Mr. Guillmette is the Plaintiff in both cases. Mr. Guillmette admitted that, at all times pertinent herein, he sold illegal drugs for a living.
In May 2007, Mr. Guillmette entered into a written lease agreement with Defendant, Robert Pingatore (Mr. Pingatore), that spanned from May 1, 2007 through May 1, 2008. The rental property was located at 119B Morgan Avenue, Johnston, Rhode Island. The monthly rent was $1300 and a $1300 damage deposit was paid at the inception of the lease.
During the course of the year, Mr. Guillmette became romantically involved with Defendant Alisha Asselin (Ms. Asselin). Ms. Asselin eventually moved into the Morgan Avenue property and the two cohabitated for some time. Mr. Guillmette testified that he originally met Ms. Asselin by selling her drugs.
On April 4, 2008, the Johnston Police raided the apartment at 119B Morgan Avenue. The front door was broken in, causing damage. The house was thoroughly searched. Parts of the heating system were dismantled by the police in search of money and drugs. The police also seized a Banshee all-terrain vehicle, a street motorcycle, a Dodge Caravan, and a Honda Accord that were at the property. The Honda Accord was in Ms. Asselin's name, and the other vehicles belonged to Mr. Guillmette. A 1971 Datsun belonging to Mr. Guillmette was also at the property but not seized by the police.
Mr. Guillmette testified that prior to the raid he received a tip from a friend that the raid may be imminent, so he absconded before the police arrived. Mr. Guillmette testified that he drove a 2006 Dodge Charger, which is embroiled in this controversy, to a friend's and left the car in the friend's garage. He then traveled to New York and then to Arizona. The specific details of his travels were not revealed at trial.
Two months after the raid, Mr. Guillmette was apprehended in Arizona and extradited to Rhode Island. On January 23, 2009, he pled guilty to drug and weapons charges and received a ten-year jail sentence with four years to serve and six years suspended. See Def.'s Ex. C. Mr. Guillmette also agreed to forfeit the vehicles seized by the police as part of his plea agreement.
Mr. Guillmette testified that he paid cash for the above-referenced Dodge Charger but put it in Ms. Asselin's name to shield it from forfeiture by law enforcement in the event he was ever caught selling drugs. He also testified that he installed a stereo system in the Dodge Charger prior to the raid. Mr. Guillmette testified that he allowed Ms. Asselin to drive the car while he was incarcerated because she had no means of transportation. Ms. Asselin remains in possession of the Dodge Charger.
Mr. Guillmette's testimony also revealed that Ms. Asselin is in possession of a Honda all-terrain vehicle (ATV) which he alleged belonged to him. The vehicle was not at the property at the time of the raid and was not registered, so there was no public record of his ownership.
Mr. Guillmette apparently did not share the "tip" he received regarding the raid with Ms. Asselin because she was at the property when the raid occurred. She spent the following thirty days in prison. The charges against her were eventually dismissed based upon Mr. Guillmette's plea. She also agreed to the forfeiture of her Honda Accord. She testified that Mr. Guillmette paid most of her legal fees associated with the criminal charges but that she also paid a portion. However, she did not recall the amount.
Ms. Asselin denied that the Dodge Charger was Mr. Guillmette's. She testified that she paid for the Dodge Charger and that it was her car. She testified that she paid for the automobile in cash that she had saved; although her age and work history make her testimony improbable. On cross-examination, she admitted to writing letters to Mr. Guillmette while he was in prison, asking for permission to use "the big black thing, " as she had "no car." Both Mr. Guillmette and Ms. Asselin testified that the Dodge Charger was "the big black thing" and that they used that particular ...