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State v. Whiting

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

May 27, 2015

State
v.
John Whiting

Providence County Superior Court. (P2/11-3234A). Associate Justice Daniel A. Procaccini.

For State: Aaron L. Weisman, Department of Attorney General.

For Defendant: John B. Reilly, Esq.

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

OPINION

Page 957

Gilbert V. Indeglia, Justice.

The defendant, John Whiting, appeals from a judgment of conviction for felony larceny in violation of G.L. 1956 § § 11-41-1 and 11-41-5 and criminal solicitation in violation of G.L. 1956 § 11-1-9. For the reasons set forth in this opinion, we affirm the judgment of conviction.

I

Facts and Travel

The critical facts surrounding defendant's convictions are not in dispute in this appeal. We therefore proceed to trace only the series of events necessary to the disposition of the legal issue at hand.

On November 22, 2011, defendant was charged by information with stealing over $500 in violation of § § 11-41-1 and 11-41-5 (count 1) and soliciting another to receive stolen goods in violation of § 11-1-9 (count 2).[1] The information was later amended on May 11, 2012, to reflect the appropriate dates and locations when and where the alleged criminal activity took place. Subsequently, on June 8, 2012, the Governor signed into law an act amending § 11-41-5 to increase the threshold for felony larceny from $500 to $1,500. See P.L. 2012, ch. 176, § § 1, 3.

Soon afterwards, defendant's case proceeded to a bench trial in the Providence County Superior Court starting on June 18, 2012, without either party or the trial justice being aware of the amendment to the statute. After the close of both the state's and defense's cases-in-chief, but before the trial justice rendered his decision, defense counsel apprised the trial justice of the amendment to the statute. Defense counsel then sought to have the larceny count amended and the solicitation charge dismissed or, in the alternative, amended. The state demurred, arguing that any change in the law should be applied only prospectively and that defendant, who had already been charged by the time the law was amended, should not benefit from the legislative change.

The trial justice agreed with the state and proceeded with the counts as charged. Both parties gave their closing arguments, and the trial justice rendered his decision from the bench on July 2, 2012. The trial justice found that the evidence was clear that the amount of money in question was $714. Accordingly, the trial justice found that defendant was guilty of having committed larceny over $500 (count 1) and having solicited another to commit a felony (i.e., receive stolen goods over $500) (count 2).

Just prior to sentencing on September 14, 2012, the trial justice entertained a motion to reconsider his decision denying defendant's request to amend the charges in light of the changes to ยง 11-41-5. The motion was denied, and the trial justice proceeded to sentencing. The defendant was sentenced to five years imprisonment, with six months to serve, the remaining four and one-half ...


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