County Superior Court (K1/14-679A) Associate Justice Brian P.
State: Lauren S. Zurier Department of Attorney General
Defendant: Kara J. Maguire Office of the Public Defender
Present: Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and
GILBERT V. INDEGLIA, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE.
November 19, 2014, a grand jury indicted Eugene Danis (Danis
or defendant) on charges of one count of first-degree child
molestation sexual assault, in violation of G.L. 1956
§§ 11-37-8.1 and 11-37-8.2, and one count of the
sale or distribution of photographs of a minor suggesting
that the minor engaged in, or is about to engage in, a sexual
act, in violation of G.L. 1956 § 11-9-1(b). A Kent
County Superior Court jury convicted the defendant on both
counts on February 9, 2016. On appeal, the defendant argues
that the trial justice deprived him of his constitutional
rights to confront and cross-examine the complaining witness.
For the reasons stated herein, we affirm the judgment of the
defendant was charged with sexually abusing his stepdaughter,
Veronica. At trial, Veronica testified that her
mother began dating defendant when Veronica was about seven
years old, and he moved in with Veronica and her mother some
time before they were married. Once they were married in
2009, Veronica testified that she began calling defendant
2012, Veronica moved with her mother and defendant to
defendant's aunt's house in West Warwick. The
defendant's aunt passed away that same year. Because
defendant was not working at that time, Veronica recalled, he
would watch her after school when her mother was at work.
Veronica had a positive relationship with defendant prior to
his aunt's passing, she testified that, once she was
twelve years old, her relationship with him began to change.
Specifically, Veronica remembered defendant speaking about
topics that "a normal father wouldn't really talk
about, " such as "sexual" topics. For example,
Veronica testified that defendant would enter the bathroom
while she was showering and speak to her through the curtain,
even opening the curtain one time while he was shirtless,
pretending as though he planned to get in the shower with
testified that, on a number of occasions, defendant showed
her some pornographic pamphlets that arrived in the mail and
told her that the women in the pictures made money from
posing nude. Eventually, Veronica stated, defendant had a few
conversations with her about making money if she posed for
such pictures. After those conversations, Veronica agreed to
take such pictures, explaining that she did so because
"in [her] twelve-year[-]old mind" she thought she
would "get money" if she did so-money that she
could use to purchase "an I-pad, electronics, and stuff
to Veronica, she posed for defendant about five times-once on
defendant and her mother's bed, and the other times in
the basement. The first time she posed on the bed was in the
fall of 2012. She wore no clothes and had on only high-heeled
shoes, and defendant instructed her on how to position
herself to expose her breasts and vagina to the camera. After
defendant took the pictures with the camera on Veronica's
cell phone, Veronica removed the S.D. card and put it in the
printer because she was "pretty sure" defendant
"couldn't figure out how to work the printer * *
*." Then, defendant told her to delete the photographs
from the phone and the S.D. card. On cross-examination,
Veronica explained that defendant told her that he was
sending the printed pictures to the owner of Playboy, who he
said was a friend of his.
said defendant used a disposable camera to take the
downstairs photographs. She recollected that defendant told
her to use lubricant and a vibrator so they could get more
money for the pictures; Veronica remembered being
"reluctant" to use the vibrator because she had
"never been * * * penetrated before." Nevertheless,
Veronica testified, defendant "put it in" her, but
she held it while he took the pictures. The entirety of the
photo shoot lasted about one hour.
recalled telling defendant around her thirteenth birthday
that she did not want to take pictures any longer. After
that, Veronica testified that defendant asked her to wear a
"strap-on" that her mom had "tried * * * on[,
]" but Veronica declined.
point, Veronica testified, she did not tell her mom what was
happening because she believed her mother was happy with
defendant and if she said anything, they would break up, and
defendant told Veronica that she would be taken away from her
mother. She also testified that he told her he would be put
in jail and "wouldn't be [her] dad" anymore.
Veronica decided she no longer wanted to take the pictures,
defendant became more strict with her, which caused tension
between them, culminating in a fight over Veronica's
failure to clean out her guinea pig's cage. During that
fight, Veronica recalled that defendant accused her of not
keeping her promises. In response, she showed him a camera
she owned at the time, to indicate that she had kept her
promise regarding the pictures, but defendant responded that
that was in the past and did not matter anymore.
friend, Nadia, was present at the time of the fight, and both
girls went for a walk, during which time Veronica explained
to Nadia what defendant had done to her. Nadia expressed to
Veronica that she did not know what to do, but that Nadia
could explain the situation to Nadia's grandmother. After
Nadia did so, her grandmother called Veronica's mother
and told her to come to Nadia's house. When
Veronica's mother learned what had happened, she returned
home to confront defendant about Veronica's allegations.
the course of the trial, the trial justice held a voir dire
hearing on the issue of permitting defense counsel to
question Veronica regarding prior sexual-abuse allegations
she purportedly made against her biological father when she
was five years old. The state attempted to keep this evidence
out at trial, while the defense argued that it was relevant
to Veronica's motive to lie about sexual assault by
father figures in her life. The trial justice ultimately
precluded defense counsel from pursuing this line of
questioning, and this decision is at issue in this appeal.
mother also testified at trial. She testified that
Veronica's biological father had "sporadic"
visitation with Veronica from 2000 to 2005. She testified
that, in 2007, defendant moved in with her and Veronica at
their Coventry residence. At that time, Veronica's
grandmother lived with them and was primarily responsible for
the care of Veronica while Veronica's mother was at work.
Eventually, Veronica's mother and defendant moved with
Veronica to the West Warwick house, at which time defendant
was unemployed and took over watching Veronica in the
mornings and afternoons.
mother recalled that, in April 2014, her daughter wanted to
go to a birthday party, but defendant said that she could not
go because she had not cleaned her guinea pig's cage.
After the argument between Veronica and defendant ended,
Veronica's mother took Veronica and her friend, Nadia, to
a store, after which the girls went to Nadia's house.
Soon after, Veronica's mother remembered receiving a
phone call from Nadia, asking her to come to Nadia's
house because Nadia's grandmother wanted to speak to her.
When Veronica's mother arrived at the house, she
discovered Veronica crying, sitting in the passenger's
seat of Nadia's grandmother's car. When Veronica
calmed down, Veronica told her that defendant had taken nude
photographs of her and that she did not want to return home.
Veronica's mother first confronted defendant, he
initially denied the allegations, and he stated, "'I
knew this was coming. Get [Veronica] so we can
talk.'" Veronica's mother met Veronica at
another store, where Nadia's grandmother had taken the
two girls, and, in the car, Veronica shared details with her
mother regarding the sexual assaults-including that defendant
used a vibrator on her.
Veronica's mother went back to her house for a second
time, she again spoke with defendant; she testified that he
said, "'It was all her idea.'"
Veronica's mother told defendant to move out of the
house, and he complied. The next day, Veronica's mother
called the police to give a statement, and the police
confiscated two laptops and Veronica's old cell phone; at
some point later, she gave police defendant's old cell
phone as well.
also testified at trial. She recalled the day of
Veronica's argument with defendant over failing to clean
her pet's cage and not attending a birthday party; she
also recalled Veronica telling her that defendant had taken
nude pictures of her. Nadia testified that the girls took a
walk together, during which Veronica told her that defendant
had taken the pictures of her and touched her.
Trenna Beltrami of the West Warwick Police Department
testified on behalf of the state. She recalled being
dispatched to a West Warwick address because Veronica's
mother had requested to speak with a female police officer to
report her husband having taken nude photographs of her
daughter. Officer Beltrami stated that Veronica's mother
told her that her daughter had explained that, in the
photographs, a vibrator was used as well as a "strap-on
sex toy, " which had been thrown in the trash. When she
spoke with Veronica, Officer Beltrami remembered that she was
told that the photographs were taken upstairs at first, and
the rest ...