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Neufville v. State

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

November 16, 2017

Eric Neufville
v.
State. State
v.
Eric Neufville.

         Superior Court of Providence County, (PM 14-461), (P2/12-1323A), (P2/11-1362A), (P1/14-1594AG), (P2/03-3234AG), (P2/03-3184A) Associate Justice Daniel A. Procaccini

          For State: Aaron L. Weisman Department of Attorney General

          For Defendant: Paula Lynch, Esq.

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

          OPINION

          Gilbert V. Indeglia, Associate Justice

         Following a probation-violation hearing in August 2014, Eric Neufville (Neufville or defendant) was found to have violated the terms of his probation and was sentenced to serve sixteen years in prison. The defendant appeals the hearing justice's sentencing determination on the probation violation and his denial of a motion for reconsideration.[1] This case came before the Supreme Court on October 4, 2017, pursuant to an order directing the parties to appear and show cause why the issues raised in this appeal should not be summarily decided. After hearing arguments of counsel and reviewing the parties' memoranda, we are satisfied that cause has not been shown. Accordingly, we shall decide the appeal at this time without further briefing or argument. For the reasons set forth herein, we affirm the judgment of the Superior Court.

         I

         Facts and Travel

         On January 23, 2014, defendant was presented as a probation violator pursuant to Rule 32(f) of the Superior Court Rules of Criminal Procedure. The state alleged that Neufville committed a robbery on December 27, 2013 while on probation.[2] The facts regarding the details of the robbery are largely undisputed.[3]

         On December 27, 2013, Bonnie Aguilar and her boyfriend, Nicolas Petrucci, were robbed at gunpoint in their apartment by two men impersonating undercover Providence police officers.[4]Around 10:30 p.m., Petrucci answered a knock at the door of their apartment. After some commotion at the door, an African-American male later identified as defendant pointed a gun in Aguilar's face, forcibly entered the apartment, and handcuffed Aguilar and Petrucci. The defendant was with an accomplice, described as a white male. Petrucci's friend, Travis Greer, accompanied the two men to the apartment after the pair had threatened him with criminal charges.[5] It is uncertain whether Greer also entered the apartment. The defendant and his accomplice ransacked the apartment, taking $200 in cash, an engagement ring, a two-carat diamond watch, assorted jewelry, a gift card, a Coach purse, an iPod, an iPad, and an Xbox from the apartment during the robbery.

         At the probation-violation hearing, the state presented three witnesses: Aguilar, Greer, and Det. Ronald Riley. The defense presented one witness: Petrucci. At the hearing, Aguilar identified defendant as the African-American man who robbed them at gunpoint.

         Aguilar recalled that defendant wore a cap at the time of the robbery. Additionally, Aguilar testified that defendant's behavior was "insane" and that he grew angrier when she denied having a safe in the apartment. The robbery lasted over an hour, and the hearing justice found that Aguilar stood in very close proximity to defendant for "a good part of that time."

         Both Aguilar and Petrucci testified that, initially, the couple identified a different person as the alleged robber after looking at Greer's Facebook page. However, Providence police investigated further and identified defendant as another potential suspect. Aguilar later testified that, when Providence police asked her to look at a photo array, she "froze" and covered the man's head as if he wore a cap before identifying defendant as the African-American man in her apartment on December 27, 2013. At the hearing, Aguilar testified that she was "150 percent" sure that it was defendant who had been in her apartment.

         Ultimately, the hearing justice found defendant to be a probation violator, concluding that he was "reasonably satisfied that [defendant] was the person who committed those acts * * *." On September 2, 2014, the hearing justice removed the suspension on the longest of defendant's sentences, thereby sentencing him to sixteen years.

         Following the violation hearing, defense counsel learned that the state had failed to turn over a police statement made by Aguilar on the day after the robbery. In that statement to police, Aguilar described one attacker as a "white man * * * about 6'2 with a baseball cap, like, a

          Boston Red Sox baseball cap" with a "navy blue hoodie, navy blue jeans." Aguilar characterized the second person as an African-American man, about five-feet-five inches tall, with a "black hoodie" and black jeans. When the police officer asked Aguilar if she saw the African-American attacker's head, Aguilar responded, "I could. He didn't have any facial hair, " adding that he had short hair on his head. Further, Aguilar stated, "it was dark in our house, " and she added that they "only had the little kitchen light" on when the attackers forced their way into the apartment.

         On January 21, 2016, defendant filed a motion for reconsideration of the hearing justice's finding that defendant violated the terms of his probation, arguing that the hearing justice should reconsider his decision or give defendant another probation-violation hearing in light of the newly produced police statement. After review, the hearing justice denied defendant's motion for reconsideration.

         The defendant has appealed the hearing justice's sentencing determination on the original violation and ...


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