Court No. 2015-42-M.P. (P2/12-617A) Stephen P. Nugent
State: Aaron L. Weisman Department of the Attorney General
Defendant: Catherine Gibran Office of the Public Defender
Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and Indeglia,
FRANCIS X. FLAHERTY ASSOCIATE JUSTICE.
giving his instructions to the jury at the conclusion of the
parties' final arguments, the trial justice referred to a
suppression hearing that had occurred before trial, and he
instructed the jury that the question of whether the police
lawfully seized cocaine from José Angeles, the
defendant, was a legal issue that he would decide. After a
jury convicted the defendant of two counts of felony assault
and one count each of possession of a controlled substance,
resisting arrest, and reckless driving, the defendant
petitioned this Court for a writ of certiorari, arguing that
the trial justice's jury instructions constituted
reversible error because the instructions amounted to
commenting on the evidence and were "confusing,
misleading, unnecessary and bolstering."
matter came before this Court for oral argument on February
23, 2017, pursuant to an order directing the parties to
appear and show cause why this appeal should not summarily be
decided. After considering the parties' oral and written
arguments, and after thoroughly reviewing the record, it is
our opinion that cause has not been shown and that this case
should be decided at this time without further briefing or
argument. For the reasons set forth in this opinion, we
affirm the judgment of conviction.
evening of July 6, 2011, Sgt. Gregory Sion, a supervisor in
the Providence Police Department's narcotics unit, was
operating an unmarked car on patrol in the north end of the
city. As Sgt. Sion was traveling east on Ledge Street, he
"observed two vehicles approaching [him] at a high rate
of speed." One of those vehicles was a silver SUV
bearing Massachusetts license plates, and the other vehicle
had New York license plates. It appeared to Sgt. Sion that
the silver SUV was chasing the vehicle with New York plates
and, as the two vehicles approached him, the silver SUV
veered across the center of the road and into Sgt. Sion's
lane of travel. Sergeant Sion said that, to avoid a
collision, he "had to swerve to the right to get out of
[the silver SUV's] way, " causing the right-front
wheel of the police vehicle to go up onto the sidewalk. In
response, Sgt. Sion quickly executed a U-turn in an attempt
to follow the two vehicles. He said that he initially lost
sight of both vehicles but, with the aid of a passerby who
was walking his dog, he quickly located the vehicles near 33
Marietta Street. By the time Sgt. Sion came upon the
vehicles, both were unoccupied.
his police radio, Sgt. Sion alerted the six other members of
his narcotics squad about the incident that had occurred on
Ledge Street, which he described as "a road rage type of
incident." While Sgt. Sion had been driving around the
block to see if he could locate the drivers of the two
vehicles, Det. John Bento and his partner Det. Leo Pichs,
both of the Providence Police Department's narcotics
unit, drove to Marietta Street and parked their unmarked
police vehicle approximately halfway down the street, facing
towards Charles Street. Shortly after arriving at Marietta
Street, Det. Bento saw the silver SUV "pull out of the
parking lot of 33 Marietta" and come towards him.
Detective Bento alerted Sgt. Sion that the silver SUV had
pulled out onto Marietta Street.
Sgt. Sion positioned his car behind the silver SUV, and
Detectives Bento and Pichs were in front of the car. Sergeant
Sion observed a lone male driver in the silver SUV, who
appeared to be the same person who was driving the car when
it ran Sgt. Sion off the road. He then ordered Detectives
Bento and Pichs "to move in." Detectives Bento and
Pichs got out of their vehicle and approached the driver of
the silver SUV, which was being driven by defendant,
is conflicting testimony about what happened after the police
"boxed in" the silver SUV. According to the
testimony of Sgt. Sion and Det. Bento, the emergency lights
on Det. Bento's vehicle were activated, and Detectives
Bento and Pichs, who were in plainclothes, verbally
identified themselves as police officers, and Det. Pichs'
badge was clearly visible. Several eyewitnesses, however,
testified that the police did not turn on their emergency
lights nor did they identify themselves as they approached
the silver SUV. And two of the eyewitnesses testified that
they believed that defendant was getting "jumped"
by random people.
Bento testified that, as he walked toward the silver SUV, he
observed defendant "manipulate something in his hand and
put it under his leg." Then, defendant put the silver
SUV into reverse, striking Sgt. Sion's vehicle, and
proceeded to drive back and forth, ramming into both Det.
Bento's vehicle and Sgt. Sion's vehicle repeatedly
until he had enough room to escape. The defendant drove the
silver SUV onto the sidewalk towards Det. Bento, at which
point Sgt. Sion drew his service pistol and at "point
blank range shot the left rear tire of the vehicle in hopes
that it would somehow disable the vehicle from running down
[Det.] Bento." However, Det. Bento was
struck and defendant fled the scene. A
high speed chase ensued.
chase soon ended after defendant crashed into a parked car
and lost control of the SUV, which went down a driveway, and
ultimately through a yard and into a fence. The defendant
fled on foot, but the police quickly apprehended him. Officer
Andres Perez, who at the time of this incident was a
detective in the Providence Police Department's narcotics
unit, participated in the pursuit and capture of defendant.
After defendant was taken into custody, Officer Perez
returned to the abandoned SUV to see "if there was any
evidence left there." As it turned out, Officer Perez
"seized [from ...