Providence County Superior Court. (P1/11-1105A). Associate Justice William E. Carnes, Jr.
For State: Jane M. McSoley, Department of Attorney General.
For Defendant: Megan F. Jackson, Office of the Public Defender.
Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and Indeglia, JJ.
This case came before the Court on May 6, 2015, pursuant to an order directing the parties to appear and show cause why the issues raised in this appeal should not be summarily decided. The defendant, Muhammad Farooq (Farooq or defendant), who was convicted on one count each of first-degree sexual assault, felony assault, and second-degree sexual assault, appeals from the denial of his motion to reduce sentence in accordance with Rule 35 of the Superior Court Rules of Criminal Procedure. After careful review of the parties' arguments, we conclude that cause has not been shown and that the appeal may be decided at this time. For the reasons set forth herein, we affirm the judgment of the Superior Court.
We briefly recite the facts of the underlying charge. Shortly after 11:30 p.m. on
November 1, 2008, Farooq invited the complaining witness, Caitlin (complainant or Caitlin), a customer, to the back room of his convenience store. At knifepoint, Farooq told Caitlin to disrobe and then proceeded to sexually assault her. After a brief struggle, Caitlin managed to grab Farooq's knife and escape.
On April 15, 2011, criminal indictment P1/11-1105A charged defendant with: first-degree sexual assault in violation of G.L. 1956 § § 11-37-2 and 11-37-3 (count 1); assault with a dangerous weapon in violation of G.L. 1956 § 11-5-2 (count 2); and second-degree sexual assault in violation of § § 11-37-4 and 11-37-5 (count 3). The defendant's jury-waived trial commenced on January 23, 2012, where he testified on his own behalf, categorically denying that he sexually assaulted Caitlin.
On January 26, 2012, the trial justice found defendant guilty on all three counts. The defendant's motion for a new trial was denied by the trial justice on February 10, 2012. At the sentencing hearing on March 22, 2012, the trial justice referenced the appropriate Superior Court sentencing benchmarks and noted that, without remorse, he would not give defendant a lesser sentence. He then sentenced defendant to concurrent terms of thirty years, eighteen to serve, and twelve suspended with probation on count 1; ten years, one to serve, and nine suspended with probation on count 2; and fifteen years, five to serve, and ten suspended with probation on count 3. On April 2, 2012, defendant filed a notice of appeal of his conviction to this Court, but he withdrew it on December 14, 2012, leaving himself with no avenue for appellate review.
On April 10, 2013, defendant filed a motion to reduce his sentence pursuant to Rule 35. In support of his motion, defendant attached a statement accepting responsibility for the " horrible crime [he] committed." The defendant included a summary of arguments, in which he pointed out that the withdrawal of his appeal was further evidence that he accepted responsibility and showed remorse for his actions.
On December 16, 2013, at the hearing on the motion, defendant made a further statement accepting responsibility, which defense counsel insisted was justification for a reduction in sentence from a total of eighteen years to serve to six years. When the hearing resumed on February 17, 2014, complainant addressed the court and stated that she did not wish to see defendant granted any further relief. In his final plea for leniency, defendant averred that there had been a change in circumstances since sentencing, evidenced by the withdrawal of his appeal and the fact that, because an immigration detainer had been lodged against him, he would likely not make parole and would be deported on completion of his sentence.
The trial justice noted his appreciation for defendant's letter acknowledging responsibility, which he understood to be a " tacit acknowledgment that he lied on the stand." The trial justice reiterated that, at sentencing, he could have made a finding that defendant lied on the witness stand and increased his sentence accordingly, but that he chose not do so. He then recognized that the standard on a Rule 35 motion is ...