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State v. Simpson

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

January 8, 2018

Walter Simpson

         Providence County Superior Court P1/82-1097A Associate Justice Netti C. Vogel

          Christopher R. Bush For State Department of Attorney General

          Susan B. Iannitelli, Esq. For Defendant:

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


          Chief Justice Suttell, for the Court.

         The defendant, Walter Simpson (Simpson or defendant), appeals from a Superior Court judgment adjudging him to have violated the terms and conditions of his probation and executing eighteen years of a twenty-year suspended sentence. This case came before the Supreme Court 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 considering the parties' written and oral submissions and reviewing the record, we conclude that cause has not been shown and that this case may be decided without further briefing or argument. For the reasons set forth herein, we affirm the decision of the hearing justice.

         I Facts and Procedural History

         In 1985, Simpson was convicted of one count of first-degree sexual assault, which this Court affirmed on appeal. See State v. Simpson, 520 A.2d 1281, 1282 (R.I. 1987). Simpson was sentenced to fifty years at the Adult Correctional Institutions with thirty years to serve and twenty years suspended with probation. On December 17, 2015, the state filed a notice of probation violation pursuant to Rule 32(f) of the Superior Court Rules of Criminal Procedure. A three-day violation hearing was held in February 2016. Below, we summarize the evidence adduced at the hearing.

         The complaining witness, whom we shall refer to as Valerie, [1] testified that, on December 14, 2015, she traveled to Woonsocket for a medical appointment. After the appointment, she crossed the street to a bus stop to take a bus home. There, she met a man named "Reggie, "[2] who, as Valerie testified, asked her if she "wanted to get high with him." She answered in the affirmative, and the two proceeded to a nearby park. After about fifteen minutes in the park, they headed to Diamond Hill Road, where Simpson lived, because Simpson "didn't want to get high in the park." About ten to fifteen minutes after leaving the park, they arrived at Simpson's house, where they went into an unfinished basement with a dirt floor and a couple of mattresses in the corner.

         Valerie testified that Simpson "laid one of the mattresses down on the ground" and then, when she "tried to turn and walk away, * * * he grabbed [her] and threw [her] * * * face down[] on the mattress." Simpson then put Valerie's hands behind her back; and, when she tried to leave, he told her "that he was a member of the police force." He then "pulled [her] pants down and put his penis into [her] vagina." Valerie testified that she "struggled" but could not get away. She said that Simpson then "put his penis into [her] mouth" but that she "kind of like threw up on him a little bit" so he "inserted his penis" into her vagina again. Valerie further testified that, "when [they] went to switch positions, * * * [she] pretended [she] was going to** * put his penis in [her] mouth, but * * * instead [she] leaned over him and grabbed [her] bag ** * and started to run * * *." When Simpson caught her, she screamed for help. Then "he pushed [her] and he said, 'Fine, go, ' and [she] started to run * * * out of the basement." She then "called the police because [Simpson] was following [her] down the street."

         Valerie testified that she told the 911 operator that she "had been raped and that somebody was chasing [her] down the street." When the police arrived, they drove her around to visually identify Simpson's house. The police officers then searched the location she identified and drove her to Landmark Hospital.

         The state then introduced as an exhibit a photo array that the Woonsocket Police Department showed to Valerie on December 14, 2015. Valerie identified Simpson as her attacker and marked the photo with a statement that she was 75 percent sure that the photo she identified was accurate. The state also introduced a recording of Valerie's 911 call.Additionally, the state introduced into evidence photographs taken by the police of Simpson's basement, which depicted a basement with two mattresses within it.

         Patrolman Justin Mowry of the Woonsocket Police Department testified that he responded to a phone call the police department had received from an unknown female who was screaming and running down the roadway in the area of Diamond Hill Road and Wood Avenue. Upon his arrival in the area, Valerie waved him down and told him she had been assaulted by a man she referred to only as "Reggie." Officer Mowry testified that Valerie directed him to the location of the assault, 594 Diamond Hill Road. He also stated that the police were able to determine that a Walter Simpson, who used "Reggie" as an alias, resided on the third floor of that address. Officer Mowry proceeded to investigate the multifamily dwelling. He observed a dirty basement with two mattresses in the corner leaned against a pole. He then went up to the third floor, where Simpson resided, and spoke to Simpson's girlfriend, who informed him that Simpson was at school.

          Simpson testified on his own behalf. He stated that he lived at 592 Diamond Hill Road in Woonsocket.[3] At around 3:50 p.m. on December 14, 2015, he left his apartment and went to the bus stop to catch a bus because he had class at the Community College of Rhode Island. At the bus stop, Valerie "was soliciting gentlemen"; one man went with her to the park across the street, and then he returned to the bus stop. Valerie then gave Simpson a napkin with her phone number written thereon. He later discovered that the phone number was incorrect. The defendant ...

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