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Gomes v. State

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

June 8, 2017

Darren Gomes
State of Rhode Island.

         Providence County Superior Court PM 13-4203, Associate Justice Patricia A. Hurst.

          For Applicant: Megan F. Jackson Office of the Public Defender.

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

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



         The applicant, Darren Gomes, appeals from the Superior Court's denial of his application for postconviction relief. This case came before the Supreme Court for oral argument on March 30, 2017, pursuant to an order directing the parties to appear and show cause why the issues raised in this appeal should not summarily be decided. After carefully considering the record and the parties' written and oral submissions, we conclude that cause has not been shown and shall proceed to decide the appeal without further briefing or argument. For the reasons set forth in this opinion, we affirm the judgment of the Superior Court.


         Facts and Travel

         In January 2004, Gomes was indicted by a grand jury as follows: count 1, assault in a dwelling house with intent to murder while armed with a dangerous weapon; count two, assault with a dangerous weapon, to wit, a pistol; count 3, use and discharge of a firearm causing permanent incapacity while committing a crime of violence; and count 4, carrying a pistol on or about his person without a license. In September of that year, he disposed of the charges against him by pleading nolo contendere to counts 1 and 4. In return, the state dismissed counts 2 and 3 in accordance with Rule 48(a) of the Superior Court Rules of Criminal Procedure. On count 1, Gomes was sentenced to thirty years at the Adult Correctional Institutions (ACI), twelve years to serve and eighteen years suspended, with eighteen years' probation. On count 4, he was sentenced to ten years at the ACI, suspended, with ten years' probation to run concurrently with count 1.

         According to Gomes, he was released from the ACI on parole on July 1, 2009. In March 2013, while he remained on parole and after an incident with his ex-girlfriend, he was arrested and charged with domestic assault[1] and failure to relinquish a telephone.

         Unfortunately for Gomes, that was neither his first nor his only scrape with the law during his parole; an incident that had occurred in February 2013, a few weeks before the March incident, caused an arrest warrant to be issued against him. This incident resulted in a new charge of breaking and entering. His ex-girlfriend, the mother of his son, was the complaining witness in both complaints.

         Probation Violation Hearing

         Based upon the two separate incidents involving his ex-girlfriend, the state filed a notice of violation against Gomes pursuant to Rule 32(f) of the Superior Court Rules of Criminal Procedure. A hearing on the violation was held on May 23, 2013, in which Gomes was represented by private counsel.[2] It appears from the record that Gomes was under the impression that the complaining witness, his ex-girlfriend, would not testify against him at the violation hearing because she had not appeared for trial on the simple assault charge. To his dismay, however, and to Gomes's visible distress, she did appear and she was on the witness stand ready to testify. Before the state began its direct examination of the witness, as a result of Gomes's emotional state, the state declared, "Your Honor, maybe the defendant needs a minute. I think he needs a minute. Do you think maybe he should be brought in the back?" In response, the hearing justice instructed Gomes to "control [him]self."

         After this brief interruption, the witness's testimony proceeded. However, as soon as the witness began reading from her prior recorded handwritten statement describing the incident, Gomes's attorney asked for a sidebar conference. Following the sidebar conference, the hearing justice asked the witness to step down because he was unsure whether the hearing would continue or not. Gomes's attorney then asked if he could "have one moment with [Gomes] just to explain[.]" Shortly thereafter, Gomes's attorney articulated that he had "informed [his] client that he ha[d] a right to a violation hearing[, and that] [a]t that hearing, the judge of this court would have to be reasonably satisfied that he did not keep the peace or be of good behavior while he was out." Gomes's attorney then indicated that Gomes "wishe[d] to forego that hearing and would like to admit violation." Next, the hearing justice asked Gomes to come forward and the following colloquy ensued:

"THE COURT: * * * Mr. Gomes, did you hear what your lawyer just told me?
"THE COURT: And is it true, sir, that you are prepared to admit to me that you violated the terms and conditions of your probation --
"THE COURT: -- knowing, sir, that you have a right to a hearing before me where the State would be required to prove to my reasonable satisfaction that you did not keep the peace and be of good behavior?
"THE COURT: And at that hearing, Mr. Gomes, you would have a right to confront and cross-examine the State's witnesses against you and to present evidence on your own behalf if you chose to do so?
"THE COURT: And you would have a further right to appeal any adverse findings to our Rhode Island Supreme Court. It is my understanding, Mr. Gomes, that you want to waive that hearing and admit to me that you ...

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