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State v. Gouin

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

April 16, 2018

State
v.
Marc Gouin.

          Providence County Superior Court (P1/13-2349A) Brian Van Couyghen, Associate Justice

          For State: Christopher R. Bush Department of Attorney General

          For Defendant: Melissa Larsen, Esq. Edward C. Roy, Jr., Esq. James E. O'Neil, Esq.

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

          OPINION

          Gilbert V. Indeglia, Associate Justice

         Justice Indeglia, for the Court. The state appeals a Providence County Superior Court justice's decision granting a motion to suppress brought by the defendant, Marc Gouin (Gouin or defendant). The defendant was indicted by a grand jury on four counts of child molestation. Prior to trial, he moved to suppress statements he made to a Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF) investigator on grounds that he had rendered the statements involuntarily. The hearing justice granted his motion, and the state appealed as allowed by G.L. 1956 § 9-24-32. For the reasons set forth herein, we vacate the decision of the Superior Court.

         I

         Facts and Travel

         In August 2013, a grand jury indicted defendant on two counts of first-degree child molestation sexual assault and two counts of second-degree child molestation sexual assault, in violation of G.L. 1956 §§ 11-37-8.1 and 11-37-8.3. The complaining witness, defendant's niece Emma, [1] alleged that in 2005 defendant had sexually abused her. On December 7, 2015, in advance of trial, defendant moved to suppress statements that he made to Kristin Prescott, a DCF investigator, during a July 11, 2012 interview at his home.[2] The hearing justice conducted an evidentiary hearing on the motion on January 19, 2016.

         A

         Accusations Against Defendant

         At the motion to suppress hearing, Prescott testified for the state. Prescott had worked for DCF at its office in Taunton, Massachusetts, as an investigator for eighteen years. In that role, she probed abuse and neglect allegations to ascertain their veracity. In 2012, she began investigating defendant.

         Prescott testified that DCF had received a report from a mandated reporter[3] stating that Emma revealed during a July 9, 2012 SAIN interview[4] that she had been sexually abused by defendant, as well as by her father. According to Prescott, Emma told the mandated reporter specifically that defendant "had touched her in her vaginal area under her underwear, " that he had "'put his thing in her mouth' on more than one occasion, " and that "he would touch himself while he was touching her, things of that nature."

         The defendant also had a stepdaughter, Marie.[5] During the SAIN interview, Emma indicated that Marie's daughter, Olivia, [6] lived with defendant, and Emma was concerned for Olivia's safety.[7]

         Emma's interview resulted in the preparation of a report[8] implicating defendant, and imposed an obligation on DCF to investigate her accusations. Prescott alerted law enforcement to Emma's allegations against defendant and her father; and, on July 10, 2012, Prescott made an unannounced visit to defendant's Seekonk, Massachusetts home. The defendant was not home, and Prescott scheduled a visit with him through Michelle Gouin-defendant's wife-for July 11, the following day.[9] Prescott testified that, during that July 10 conversation, when she informed Michelle of Emma's claims, Michelle became upset and "told [her] this [was] something that happened a long time ago * * *."

         Prior to the July 11 interview, Prescott contacted the East Providence and Seekonk police departments to obtain the 2005 records of the accusations against defendant. She received East Providence police reports regarding defendant the morning of the interview and attempted to contact a detective there, but was unsuccessful. Prescott testified that neither the East Providence nor the Seekonk police instructed her to speak with defendant.

         B

         Interview with Defendant

         On July 11, 2012, Prescott went to defendant's home for the scheduled visit. The purpose of the visit, she testified, was to assess Olivia's safety in the home. Once there, Prescott spoke with Marie before speaking with defendant and Michelle. Prescott characterized defendant and Michelle as intelligent people without any apparent cognitive ...


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