County Superior Court P1/82-500A Justice Bennett R. Gallo
S. Zurier Department of Attorney General
Anthony M. Traini, Esq. John B. Harwood, Esq.
Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and Indeglia,
A. Suttell Chief Justice.
Justice Suttell, for the Court. This Court issued a writ of
certiorari to review a Superior Court order denying the
state's request to adjudge Anthony Parrillo a probation
violator. The hearing justice's decision to deny the
state's request was based upon his finding that Parrillo
was no longer on probation at the time that he allegedly
committed the offense of felony assault. For the reasons set
forth in this opinion, we vacate the order of the Superior
Court and remand the case for further proceedings.
and Procedural History
pertinent facts in this case are not in dispute. In March
1982, Parrillo was charged with two separate counts of
murder. Later that year, a Superior Court jury found him
guilty of murder in the first degree on count 1 of the
indictment and guilty of murder in the second degree on count
2 of the indictment. Parrillo appealed to this Court, and in
1984 we vacated the judgment of conviction. State v.
Parillo, 480 A.2d 1349, 1359 (R.I.
1984). The case was remanded to the Superior
Court where, on January 21, 1986, Parrillo pled guilty to two
counts of second-degree murder. Significantly, per the
judgment of conviction and commitment, he was sentenced to
thirty years, the first twenty years to serve with "the
remaining 10 years * * * suspended, probation for 10 years,
said probation to commence upon [Parrillo's] release from
the [Adult Correctional Institutions (ACI)], each count
December 22, 1993, after receiving what appear to be credits
for time served pursuant to G.L. 1956 §
12-19-2 and for good behavior pursuant to G.L.
1956 § 42-56-24,  Parrillo was released from the ACI on
parole. According to an affidavit by Parrillo, on or about
October 25, 1999, he was advised by his parole officer that
his parole was terminated and that his ten-year term of
probation began as of that date. Ten years passed without
incident, and the Department of Corrections (DOC) informed
Parrillo, in writing, that his "file ha[d] expired on
[October 24, 2009, ]" and that "[a]ccording to
available records as of [that] date, [his] probation ha[d]
been terminated * * *." This information was conveyed in
a letter, dated December 14, 2009, under the letterhead of
the "Adult Probation and Parole" unit of the DOC
and signed by Donna Broccoli, "[a]dministrative
[o]fficer" (2009 letter). Parrillo thereafter had no
contact with the probation department.
December 17, 2011, Parrillo was arrested as a result of a
physical altercation that occurred at Club 295, a nightclub
located on Atwells Avenue in Providence (2011 incident). He
was later charged with two counts of felony assault,
conspiracy to commit felony assault, and simple assault as a
result of the 2011 incident. In addition, on January 9, 2012,
the state filed a probation violation report pursuant to Rule
32(f) of the Superior Court Rules of Criminal
Procedure. The state maintained that Parrillo had
failed to "keep the peace and be of good behavior"
and that, as a consequence, he should be adjudged a violator.
objected to the state's Rule 32(f) violation report and
filed a request to be discharged from probation, to which the
state objected. He sought a dismissal of the Rule 32(f)
violation report on the grounds that "he was no longer
on probation at the time of either the alleged conduct or the
filing of the violation notice, but instead that his
probation expired some time before that." Parrillo
attested that he "believed that [his] probation should
have ended at the earliest on December 20, 2003, but in any
event [he] was not on probation after October 24, 2009,
" and that he "conducted [him]self at all times as
though [he] was not on probation." He claimed that he
had relied on the language used by the sentencing justice,
i.e., that his ten-year probationary term would
"commence upon [his] release from the ACI, " in
addition to the DOC letter that informed him that his
probation had terminated on October 24, 2009-ten years after
his release from parole. He also argued, seemingly in the
alternative, that the state should be barred from seeking to
revoke his probation because to hold otherwise would
constitute a violation of his due-process rights.
violation hearing was held on November 2, 2012, at which time
Parrillo argued that he was not "subject to being
violated because his probation ha[d] already terminated"
in 2009. He maintained that it was "inconceivable"
that the state could inform Parrillo that his probation had
ended, and then, years later, attempt to adjudge him a
probation violator. In response, the state maintained its
position that Parrillo was in fact on probation at the time
of the 2011 incident. Specifically, the state claimed that
Parrillo's thirty-year sentence in 1986 meant that he
would "finish serving the full term of his sentence on
January 22, 2016."
hearing justice disagreed with the state and quashed the Rule
32(f) violation report. The hearing justice rejected
Parrillo's argument that the doctrine of equitable
estoppel barred the state from seeking to adjudge him a
violator, reasoning that "the probation officer had no
authority to modify [the sentence], " and that it was
"absurd to even attempt to apply the detrimental
reliance [analysis] in the context of the facts of this
case." However, the hearing justice held that the
language of § 12-19-8 was clear in that it granted the
sentencing justice the authority to set the period of
probation. Therefore, he concluded that the sentencing
justice's specification that probation would
"commence upon [Parrillo's] release from the
ACI" should be given effect. An order entered denying the
state's request that Parrillo be adjudged a probation
state subsequently filed a motion to reconsider and, on April
5, 2013, its motion was heard. The hearing justice explained
that his decision to deny and dismiss the Rule 32(f)
violation report was based on what he felt was "the only
evidence of the intent of the sentencing judge"-the
clear language of the judgment of conviction that articulated
that the probationary term would "commence upon
[Parrillo's] release from the ACI." The hearing
justice further explained that "[t]he [sentencing] judge
could have sentenced [Parrillo] to 30 years, 20 to serve,
with the balance of the term suspended and [Parrillo] placed
on probation for that period of time[, ] [but] [h]e did
not." Therefore, the hearing justice denied the
state's motion to reconsider. The state thereafter filed
a petition for a writ of certiorari, which this Court granted
on May 27, 2014.
Court's review 'on writ of certiorari is limited to
examining the record to determine if an error of law has been
committed.'" Huntley v. State, 63 A.3d 526,
530 (R.I. 2013) (quoting State v. Shepard, 33 A.3d
158, 163 (R.I. 2011)). "Questions of law * * * are not
binding upon the [C]ourt and may be reviewed to determine
what the law is and its applicability to the facts."
Id. at 530-31 (quoting Shepard, 33 A.3d at
163). "We reverse only when we find pursuant to the
petition that the [hearing justice] committed an error of
law." Id. (quoting Shepard, 33 A.3d at
163). On certiorari, "[w]e do not weigh the
evidence." Kedy v. A.W. Chesterton Co., 946
A.2d 1171, 1177 (R.I. 2008). "If legally competent
evidence exists to support th[e] determination, we will
affirm it unless one or more errors of law have so infected
the validity of the proceedings as to warrant reversal."
Id. (quoting Cullen v. Town Council of
Lincoln, 893 A.2d 239, 244 (R.I. 2006)).
first address the question of whether, as a matter of law,
Parrillo was on probation at the time of the 2011 incident.
To do so, we must delve into the governing statutory
provisions and our jurisprudence interpreting such
provisions, most recently pronounced in Rose v.
State, 92 A.3d 903 (R.I. 2014). If Parrillo was indeed
on probation at that time, then we must determine if the
hearing justice committed an error of law in rejecting
Parrillo's equitable estoppel defense against the state.