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State v. Exley

Superior Court of Rhode Island, Providence

December 6, 2017

STATE OF RHODE ISLAND
v.
THOMAS YATES EXLEY

          For Plaintiff: Laura N. Nicholson, Esq.; Bethany Anne Laskowski, Esq.;

          For Defendant: Stephen Thomas Morrissey, Esq.

          DECISION

          MONTALBANO, J.

         Before this Court is Thomas Yates Exley's (Mr. Exley) appeal of the order of a Superior Court Magistrate (the Magistrate), dated March 28, 2017 and submitted May 10, 2017, affirming the sex offender classification determined by the Rhode Island Sex Offender Board of Review (the Board). The Board classified Mr. Exley as a Level II sex offender for the purposes of the Rhode Island Sexual Offender Registration and Community Notification Act (the Act), G.L. 1956 § 11-37.1-1. On appeal, Mr. Exley asserts that he should have been classified as a Level I sex offender. Jurisdiction is pursuant to G.L. 1956 § 8-2-39.2(j).

         I

         Facts

         The facts of the underlying offense are set forth in the Board's Risk Assessment Report. The Risk Assessment Report indicates that on December 4, 2006, a seventeen-year-old victim residing in Marin County, California, notified her therapist of inappropriate sexual touching by her father. (Risk Assessment Report 3.) The victim was identified as Mr. Exley's biological daughter. Id. at 3.

         On December 8, 2006, the victim was taken to a rehabilitation center and remained in the program for forty-five days. Id. Thereafter, on January 12, 2007, the victim gave a written statement detailing the sexual assault. Id. The victim reported that Mr. Exley's inappropriate sexual conduct included "digital penetration, masturbation of himself and the victim, attempted sexual intercourse, and ultimately forced oral copulation of the victim." Id. The incidents occurred in the family home, a hotel room, and on a commercial airplane. Id. at 3-4. The victim reported that the incidents occurred four to five times a week over three to four months. Id.

         On March 18, 2009, Mr. Exley submitted a guilty plea to one count of forced oral copulation with his biological daughter. (Risk Assessment Report 3.) The Marin County Superior Court in California sentenced Mr. Exley to six years in the state prison system, as well as five years parole with GPS and lifetime registration. Mr. Exley was released on July 22, 2014. Soon after his release, Mr. Exley relocated to Rhode Island, where he now permanently resides with his current wife. Id. at 4. Mr. Exley will remain under Adult Parole Supervision and GPS until July 22, 2019. Id.

         Upon his arrival in the state, Mr. Exley timely registered as a sex offender as required by § 11-37.1-3. (Risk Assessment Report 3.) On July 25, 2014, pursuant to § 11-37.1-12 and the Rhode Island Parole Board Sexual Offender Community Notification Guidelines (the Guidelines), Mr. Exley reported to the Board in order to receive a sex offender classification to reflect his level of risk to the community. On September 25, 2014, pursuant to § 11-37.1-6(1)(b), the Board completed the Risk Assessment Report to determine Mr. Exley's level of risk to reoffend, and determined that Mr. Exley was a Level II sex offender and at moderate risk to reoffend. Id. at 1.

         II

         Travel

         Mr. Exley timely appealed the Board's Level II classification to a Magistrate of the Superior Court in compliance with § 11-37.1-14. In response, the State moved to affirm the Board's Level II classification.

         The Magistrate conducted a hearing on the appeal on March 28, 2017. Thereafter, on May 9, 2017, the Magistrate issued his Decision on the record affirming the Board's Level II classification. The Magistrate's Order dated March 28, 2017 was entered May 10, 2017. Mr. Exley timely appealed the Magistrate's Order to this Court on May 23, 2017, pursuant to § 8-2-39.2(j). Mr. Exley filed his appellate memorandum (Exley's Appellate Mem.) on October 3, 2017, and the State filed its memorandum (State's Mem.) on November 7, 2017. Oral arguments took place on November 7, 2017.

         III

         Standard of Review

         A

         Review of a Magistrate's Decision

         A Superior Court Justice's review of a decision of a magistrate is governed by § 8-2-11.1(d). Section 8-2-11.1(d) provides, in pertinent part:

"A party aggrieved by an order entered by the . . . magistrate shall be entitled to a review of the order by a justice of the superior court. Unless otherwise provided in the rules of procedure of the court, such review shall be on the record and appellate in nature. The court shall, by rules of procedure, establish procedures for review of orders entered by the . . . magistrate, and for enforcement of contempt adjudications of the . . . magistrate." Sec. 8-2-11.1(d).

         Rule 2.9(h) of the Superior Court Rules of Practice presently governs the review. The Rule provides:

"The Superior Court justice shall make a de novo determination of those portions to which the appeal is directed and may accept, reject or modify, in whole or in part, the judgment, order or decree of the magistrate. The justice, however, need not formally conduct a new hearing and may consider the record developed before the magistrate, making his or her own determination based on that record whether there is competent evidence upon which the magistrate's judgment, order or decree rests. The justice may also receive further evidence, recall witnesses or recommit the matter with instructions." R.P. 2.9(h).

         If the record indicates that competent evidence supports the magistrate's findings, the Court "shall not substitute [its] view of the evidence for [the magistrate's] even though a contrary conclusion could have been reached." State v. Dennis, 29 A.3d 445, 450 (R.I. 2011) (citing Tim Hennigan Co. v. Anthony A. Nunes, Inc., 437 A.2d 1355, 1357 (R.I. 1981)). The record on appeal includes "[t]he original papers and exhibits filed with the Superior Court, the transcript of the proceedings, and the docket entries." R.P. 2.9(f).

         B

         Review of an Appeal of Sex Offender Review Board Level Classification

         On appeal, the State has the burden of presenting "a prima facie case that justifies the proposed level of and manner of notification." Sec. 11-37.1-16(a). The State must prove two "prongs" in order to establish a prima facie case: first, that "[a] validated risk assessment tool has been used to determine the risk of re-offense, " and second, that "[r]easonable means have been used to collect the information used in the validated assessment tool." Dennis, 29 A.3d at 449, citing § 11-37.1-16(b)(1)-(2). The Superior Court must affirm the classification level determined by the Board unless "it is persuaded by a preponderance of the evidence that the determination on either the level of notification or the manner in which it is proposed to be accomplished is not in compliance with this chapter or the guidelines adopted pursuant to this chapter." Sec. 11-37.1-16(c). Accordingly, an individual on appeal is afforded the opportunity to challenge the State's prima facie case by presenting evidence and testimony. State v. Germane, 971 A.2d 555, 580-81 (R.I. 2009).

         IV

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