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State v. Fairweather

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

June 3, 2016

Sharif K. Fairweather.

         Associate Justice Stephen P. Nugent Providence County P2/07-1875A Superior Court

          For State: Lauren S. Zurier Department of Attorney General

          For Defendant: Lara E. Montecalvo Office of the Public Defender Hayley Hutchins Rule 9 Student Attorney

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


          William P. Robinson III Associate Justice

         The defendant, Sharif K. Fairweather, seeks review of an adjudication of a probation violation that was entered after a hearing in the Providence County Superior Court on April 8, 2014.[1] At the conclusion of that hearing, the hearing justice found that Mr. Fairweather had violated the terms and conditions of his probation, and he ordered him to serve seventy-two months of the seventy-eight months remaining on the suspended sentence that he had received as a result of an earlier conviction. The defendant contends that the hearing justice acted arbitrarily and capriciously in finding that he had violated the terms and conditions of his probation. The defendant also challenges as "excessive" the fact that the hearing justice executed seventy-two months of the original 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 petition should not be summarily decided. After a close review of the record and careful consideration of the parties' arguments (both written and oral), we are satisfied that cause has not been shown and that the issues raised in this petition may be decided at this time.

         For the reasons set forth in this opinion, we quash the writ and affirm the judgment of the Superior Court.

         I Facts and Travel

         On February 19, 2008, a judgment entered sentencing defendant to a seven-year suspended sentence with probation, after he had pled nolo contendere to one count of breaking and entering a dwelling. Subsequently, on June 29, 2012, after defendant had been found to be in violation of his probation, a judgment entered sentencing him to six months to serve, leaving seventy-eight months of his suspended sentence remaining. The defendant was still on probation on March 21 and 22, 2014, which is when the events at issue in this case transpired.

         On March 24, 2014, the state filed a notice of probation violation pursuant to Rule 32(f) of the Superior Court Rules of Criminal Procedure alleging that defendant had failed to comply with a condition of his probation by "fail[ing] to keep the peace and be of good behavior;" it is that notice of probation violation that gave rise to the instant case. On April 8, 2014, a probation-violation hearing was held in the Superior Court. We recount below the salient aspects of that hearing.

         A The Testimony of Clarissa Randall

         Clarissa Randall testified that in March of 2014 she and Sharif Fairweather were "boyfriend and girlfriend" and she was "about seven months" pregnant with his child. She stated that, around 5:00 p.m. on what would have been March 21, she went to the house on Rhodes Street in Providence which was the residence of Mr. Fairweather, whom she had not seen for over a month. She said that, after she arrived, defendant "came upstairs, greeted [her] for a few minutes, [and] went back downstairs, " while she remained upstairs in his bedroom, where she stayed until about 8:30 or 9:00 when she went down to the kitchen to prepare some food. Ms. Randall further testified that defendant came into the kitchen in order to "check[]" on her and stayed for fifteen minutes. She stated that, after the food was prepared, she returned upstairs to eat it and then went to sleep.

         Ms. Randall testified that, around 3:00 a.m. on the next morning, she was awakened by defendant, who was yelling; she described him as being "intoxicated." She stated that she told defendant that she was going to go home if he was going to argue with her. She added that defendant "got mad" and that she told him that she was leaving; she stated that he then grabbed her by her neck and slammed her into the wall. She said that she hit her head and her back against the wall and felt pain in her neck and in her lower back. She further testified that defendant picked up a knife and told her that he would kill her, causing her to feel threatened. Ms. Randall testified that she then left the house, walked to the corner of the street, and called the police, who met her at that corner. She said that she told an officer that she had hurt her back and head; she added that a rescue vehicle was called to transport her to the hospital.

         On cross-examination, Ms. Randall testified that, shortly after she arrived at the Rhodes Street house, she encountered a woman named "Elaine, " who told her that, on an earlier day, a woman who was a potential tenant had come to the house to look at a room and that ...

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