Providence County Superior Court, P2/12-179A, Associate Justice Sarah Taft-Carter
For State: Aaron L. Weisman Department of Attorney General
For Defendant: Mark L. Smith, Esq.
Present: Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and Indeglia, JJ.
FRANCIS X. FLAHERTY ASSOCIATE JUSTICE.
Following a jury-waived trial before a justice of the Superior Court, the defendant, Francis Kolsoi, was convicted of five counts of stalking in violation of G.L. 1956 § 11-59-2. The trial justice imposed a sentence of probation on each count to run concurrently. The defendant timely appealed his conviction to this Court. The matter came before us on October 7, 2015, under an order directing the parties to appear and show cause why the issues raised by this appeal should not summarily be decided. After considering counsels' oral and written arguments and examining the record, we are of the opinion that cause has not been shown and that this case can be decided without further briefing or argument. For the reasons given below, we affirm the judgment of the Superior Court.
Facts and Travel
In the fall of 2011, as part of her morning routine, Allison, a student at Lincoln High School, would pick up her friends Brianna, Chloe, Danielle, and Emily on her way to school.En route, the girls usually would stop at a local Dunkin' Donuts for coffee. On four days in September and October 2011, the girls and defendant crossed paths at Dunkin' Donuts. Allison and Brianna testified that on those four occasions, Kolsoi engaged in disturbing behavior that was directed at them, including looking down their friend's shirt, staring at them, appearing to photograph them with his cell phone, and following them in his vehicle after they left the coffee shop. Footage from the shop's security cameras, which was admitted into evidence, captured most of what transpired inside the store. Also, on more than one occasion, Kolsoi tailgated the girls' vehicle, flashed his car lights at them, or followed them to the school parking lot.
Allison testified that the group first encountered defendant on September 23, 2011, when defendant opened the coffee shop's door for them as he was entering and they were leaving. As they passed through the door, Brianna observed him look down the front of Danielle's shirt. The defendant did not go into the shop, but instead stood in front of Allison's car, a black Volvo, "and just stared at [them] getting into the car." According to Allison, Kolsoi then hurried to his car and "drove very fast to catch up" to them, almost striking her car in the process. Kolsoi continued to follow them very closely, switching lanes when Allison did, and flashing his lights. She testified that she was afraid that he might be trying to collide with her car or, even worse, planning to abduct one of them.
On September 30, 2011, when Allison and her friends again visited Dunkin' Donuts, Brianna noticed that Kolsoi was already inside the shop. While they waited in line to be served, Brianna alerted the group to his presence and Allison noticed that Kolsoi was holding his cell phone in a manner that suggested that he was taking a video or pictures of her and her friends. Allison immediately said, "Let's go" to her companions and they all ran out of the shop, except for Brianna, who stayed behind waiting for her order. Allison said that, when she returned to get her friend, Brianna was standing in line, looking frightened and holding on to an acquaintance.
Brianna also testified; she said that she saw Kolsoi sitting at a table, pointing his phone at the girls. She also concluded that he was videotaping or taking pictures of them. She said that she held on to a friend in line because she was afraid that Kolsoi would grab her. When they returned to Allison's car, they noticed that Kolsoi was already in his vehicle, relaxing with his hands behind his head, staring at them. This time, according to Allison, Kolsoi followed them all the way to school and "drove very slowly past [them] and was smiling and staring at [them] as [they] were standing in front of [her] car." Brianna also said that, as he drove by the school parking lot, Kolsoi was looking at them and smiling, which caused her to feel "[c]reeped out." Upset by what had just occurred, for a second time, Allison memorized his license plate number and reported both incidents to the school's assistant principal.
On October 5, 2011, the girls were in the Dunkin' Donuts when they looked outside and noticed Kolsoi in his car, parked near Allison's black Volvo. Fearing for their safety, the girls called the police and waited for a police car to arrive before they returned to their car. Although Kolsoi chose not to follow them that day, a security video showed Kolsoi's car leaving the parking lot behind the police car, shortly after the girls left.
On October 6, 2011, the girls again arrived at Dunkin' Donuts before school. However, this time the Lincoln Police Department had informed them that plainclothes police officers would be inside the building to observe Kolsoi. The students purchased their items while Kolsoi sat in his car in the parking lot. After they backed out of their parking space and left the premises, Kolsoi again began to trail them. Allison said that, although he was two car lengths behind the girls when they left the lot, Kolsoi soon caught up to them and pulled up beside them on the road so that he could look inside their car. This last incident led to Kolsoi's arrest on October 12, 2011.
In an information dated January 19, 2012, the state charged defendant with five counts of felony stalking. The case came to trial in the Superior Court later that year. At the close of the state's evidence, Kolsoi moved to dismiss the charges against him, pursuant to Rule 29(a) of the Superior Court Rules of Criminal Procedure. The trial justice reserved her decision on the motion until the close of all the evidence. Kolsoi then testified in his own defense, making an effort to explain his actions for each encounter with the young complainants. Kolsoi maintained that each situation was coincidental and he denied that he was aware of the girls for more than an instant when their paths crossed. He said that he was at Dunkin' Donuts on those occasions for innocuous reasons, in particular, to connect with someone for part-time work. He testified that he drove closely behind the girls and flashed his lights because he was ...