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State v. Prout

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

June 5, 2015

Justin Prout

Page 197

Providence County Superior Court. (P1/04-1877A). Associate Justice William E. Carnes, Jr.

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

For Defendant: Kara J. Maguire, Office of the Public Defender.

Present: Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, and Robinson, JJ. Justice Indeglia did not participate.


Page 198

Paul A. Suttell, Chief Justice

The defendant, Justin Prout, appeals from a judgment declaring him to be in violation of the terms of his probation and sentencing him to serve thirteen years of a previously imposed suspended sentence. This case came before the Supreme Court pursuant to an order directing the parties to appear and show cause why the issues raised in this appeal should not be summarily decided. After considering the parties' written and oral submissions and reviewing the record, we conclude that cause has not been shown and that this case may be decided without further briefing or argument. For the reasons set forth in this opinion, we affirm the judgment of the Superior Court.


Facts and Procedural History

On February 10, 2006, a Superior Court jury found defendant guilty of breaking and entering, assault with a dangerous weapon, and simple assault. [1] On April 28, 2006, defendant was sentenced to ten years to serve on count 1 for breaking and entering; two years to serve and thirteen years suspended, with probation, on count 2 for felony assault, to run concurrently with the sentence for count 1; and one year to serve on count 3 for simple assault, to run concurrently with the sentences for counts 1 and 2. On June 19, 2012, while defendant was incarcerated at the High Security Center of the Adult Correctional Institutions (ACI), in an area known as the " E Module," an altercation occurred between defendant and a correctional officer, Christian Torres, which resulted in significant injuries to Officer Torres. As a result of this altercation, the state initiated probation-violation proceedings seeking to invoke the suspended portion of defendant's sentence for felony assault. A hearing was conducted in the Superior Court on February 20 and 21, 2013. The following facts are adduced from the testimonies of three correctional officers as well as from the testimony of defendant, whose recollection of the altercation that occurred on June 19, 2012 differs significantly from the version put forth by the officers.

The first witness to testify at the hearing was Adam Klaus, a correctional officer who observed the altercation involving defendant on June 19, 2012. On that day Officer Klaus had been assigned to the control center of the E Module unit. This unit contains twelve single-occupancy cells; defendant was being housed at that time in cell number eleven. Officer Klaus testified that, from his post at the control center, he could see all twelve cells, as well as the shower area and the inmates' cosmetics lockers. Officer Klaus explained that, when inmates in the E Module are retrieved from their cells, they normally are handcuffed with their hands behind their backs; in certain circumstances, however, such as when they are being taken to the showers, the inmates are handcuffed with their hands in front of their bodies. According to Officer Klaus, inmates are handcuffed in the front when taken to the showers because they may need to use their hands to retrieve items from their cosmetics lockers.

Officer Klaus testified that, each morning in the E Module, inmates are fed breakfast in their cells at 7:05 a.m. and then they are taken either for recreation

Page 199

time or to the showers, depending on the day. On June 19, 2012, the inmates were scheduled to take showers. From his position in the control center that morning, Officer Klaus saw Officer Torres approach defendant's cell to take him to the shower. Officer Klaus observed Officer Torres open a " trap" in the cell door; the trap is a small hole used for passing food and for accessing the inmate's hands to be cuffed before opening the door. According to Officer Klaus, Officer Torres cuffed defendant's hands together in front of his body, through the trap in the cell door. Officer Torres then signaled to Officer Klaus, who controlled the doors in the unit from his post in the control center, to open the door to defendant's cell. Officer Klaus opened the door, and then he observed that defendant asked Officer Torres if he could retrieve something from his cosmetics locker.[2] Officer Klaus then witnessed Officer Torres bend down to unlock defendant's locker, at which time defendant raised his cuffed hands above his head " and struck Officer Torres in the back of the head, knocking him to the ground." Officer Klaus further testified that defendant " kept kicking, punching. He put his hands around [Officer Torres's] neck, tried to choke him."

When Officer Klaus saw defendant strike Officer Torres in the back of the head, he radioed a " Code Blue," which is the code used when there is a fight and an officer needs assistance. It took approximately twelve to fifteen seconds for additional officers to arrive, during which time Officer Klaus saw defendant " striking Officer Torres in the head, in the face, kicking him, trying to choke him." Three officers initially responded and tackled defendant, who was on top of Officer Torres. Ultimately, eight officers, as well as a lieutenant and a captain, responded to the scene and were able to gain control of defendant. The defendant was then taken to the " dispensary" to be evaluated by medical staff. ...

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