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Atryzek v. State

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

December 6, 2018

Sebastian Atryzek
v.
State of Rhode Island.

          Providence County No. (PM 15-4499) Superior Court William E. Carnes Associate Justice

          For Petitioner: Carl J. Ricci, Esq.

          For State of Rhode Island: Christopher R. Bush Department of Attorney General.

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

          OPINION

          Francis X. Flaherty Associate Justice.

         Sebastian Atryzek seeks review of a Superior Court judgment denying his application for postconviction relief. This case came before the Supreme Court for oral argument on October 2, 2018, pursuant to an order directing the parties to appear and show cause why the issues raised should not summarily be decided. After hearing the arguments of counsel and examining the memoranda filed on behalf of the parties, we quash the judgment of the Superior Court and remand the case for further factfinding in light of our opinion in State v. Gibson, 182 A.3d 540 (R.I. 2018).

         I Facts and Travel

         On February 18, 1993, seventeen year old Atryzek pled guilty to the rape of a child in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, in violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 265, § 23. He was sentenced to fifteen years' suspended imprisonment, with a term of supervised probation that was to terminate on June 19, 2000. He was also assessed as a Level I Sex Offender. At some point after his conviction, Atryzek moved to Rhode Island with his family, but he did not register as a sex offender in accordance with G.L. 1956 chapter 37.1 of title 11. Those omissions led to his being charged with failing to register in 2009, 2010, and again in 2012. On February 2, 2012, Atryzek pled nolo contendere to all three charges; he was sentenced to five years' imprisonment, ten months of which were to be served at the Adult Correctional Institutions, with the remaining fifty months suspended, with probation. In 2013, Atryzek once again was charged with, and again pled nolo contendere to, failing to comply with the sex offender registration statute. For this latest charge, Atryzek was sentenced to seven years' incarceration, with five years to serve and two years suspended, with probation.

         In 2015, Atryzek filed an application for postconviction relief from his 2013 conviction, which a Superior Court magistrate denied. Atryzek appealed that ruling to a justice of the Superior Court, and he also filed a new application for postconviction relief from convictions for the 2009, 2010, and 2012 charges. In a written opinion dated May 5, 2016, the Superior Court justice denied postconviction relief with respect to all four convictions. In that decision, the hearing justice held that Atryzek had a lifetime duty to register under the sex offender registration statute that was in place at the time of the underlying offense and that his claims of ineffective assistance of counsel were unsubstantiated. Atryzek petitioned this Court for the issuance of a writ of certiorari, which we granted on June 13, 2017.

         II Standard of Review

         Pursuant to G.L. 1956 § 10-9.1-1, postconviction relief "is available to 'any person who has been convicted of a crime and who thereafter alleges either that the conviction violated the applicant's constitutional rights or that the existence of newly discovered material facts requires vacation of the conviction in the interest of justice.'" Duvere v. State, 151 A.3d 314, 317 (R.I. 2017) (quoting Lamoureux v. State, 93 A.3d 958, 961 (R.I. 2014)). An applicant for postconviction relief bears the "burden of proving, by a preponderance of the evidence, that such [postconviction] relief is warranted[.]" Navarro v. State, 187 A.3d 317, 325 (R.I. 2018) (quoting Motyka v. State, 172 A.3d 1203, 1205 (R.I. 2017)). "This Court will not disturb a [hearing] justice's factual findings made on an application for post[ ]conviction relief absent clear error or a showing that the [hearing] justice overlooked or misconceived material evidence in arriving at those findings." Id. (quoting Chapdelaine v. State, 32 A.3d 937, 941 (R.I. 2011)).

         III Discussion

         Before this Court, Atryzek first argued that G.L. 1956 § 11-37-16, the 1992 sex offender registration statute that was in place at the time of his underlying conviction, was silent as to the duration of his registration requirement and therefore was ambiguous. As a result, he argued, the rule of lenity required that the registration period be no longer than that provided for in the 1992 statute's immediate successor statute, § 11-37.1-4, enacted in 1996, which required sex offenders to register "for a period of ten (10) years subsequent to the date of conviction[.]" See P.L. 1996, ch. 104, § 1. Of significance is the fact that we considered and disposed of this very issue in Gibson, discussed below-a case that was decided during the pendency of our review in this case. See Gibson, 182 A.3d at 548-49.

         In light of our decision in Gibson, Atryzek submitted a supplemental memorandum, which recognized that the duration of his registration requirement is governed by the current incarnation of ยง 11-37.1-4, which was enacted in 2003. He now argues that, therefore, his duty to register expired ten years after his supervised probation ended in 2000, requiring, at least, the vacation of his 2012 and 2013 convictions for failure to register. Atryzek also argues that he received ineffective assistance of counsel when he pled nolo contendere to his four ...


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