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State v. Rogers

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

May 17, 2019

Jamal Rogers.

          Providence County P1/12-1582A Superior Court Associate Justice Daniel A. Procaccini

          For State: Lauren S. Zurier Department of the Attorney General

          For Defendant: Megan F. Jackson Office of the Public Defender

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



         This case came before the Supreme Court on March 5, 2019, on appeal by the defendant, Jamal Rogers (defendant), from a judgment of conviction entered in the Superior Court following a jury finding of guilty on five counts of second-degree sexual assault, in violation of G.L. 1956 § 11-37-4. Before this Court, the defendant argues that the trial justice erred in denying his motion for a new trial and that the verdict failed to serve the interests of justice. The case is before us 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 hearing the arguments of counsel and examining the memoranda filed by the parties, we are of the opinion that cause has not been shown, and we proceed to decide the appeal at this time. For the reasons set forth in this opinion, we affirm the judgment of the Superior Court.

         Facts and Travel

         On May 25, 2012, a grand jury returned an indictment that charged defendant with one count of first-degree sexual assault, in violation of § 11-37-2 (count one); five counts of second-degree sexual assault, in violation of § 11-37-4 (counts two through six); and one count of assault with intent to commit first-degree sexual assault, in violation of G.L. 1956 § 11-5-1 (count seven). In January 2017, a jury trial was held in Providence County Superior Court; the state presented two witnesses: Molly, [1] the complaining witness, and Detective Sergeant Matthew Ryan (Det. Ryan), the lead investigator. We summarize below the pertinent testimony presented at trial.

         Molly testified that, in February 2012, she was fifteen years old and a sophomore at Woonsocket High School; at that time, she was participating in an after-school online English makeup class, which took place Monday through Thursday at the high school, from 2:30 p.m. until five in the evening. On Mondays, Molly would walk a short distance to her grandparents' home after class, and her father would pick her up there.

         On Monday, February 6, 2012, Molly testified that, after a "really rough day at school[, ]" she decided to skip the online course. Instead, she went to Cass Park, a playground adjacent to the high school, to sit on the swings and "reflect and think about [her] day * * * before [she] went home[.]" Noticing that dusk was fast approaching, Molly approached a passing stranger, a "big, chubby'ish" man, and asked if he knew the time. This stranger was defendant.[2] The defendant replied in the negative and asked her, "[W]ould you happen to have any weed on you[?]" Molly responded in the negative, and defendant walked away. After waiting on the swings for several more minutes for someone else to walk by, Molly reluctantly decided to walk back to the high school in order to check the time in the main office.

         The defendant suddenly approached Molly from behind, grabbed the hood of her jacket, and dragged her up a hill in the park, behind the swings. Molly attempted to dig her feet into the ground to make him stop dragging her, and put her hands behind herself to make him let go of her jacket but, at approximately 104 pounds, she "was not strong enough and after a while [she] gave up." At the top of the hill, hidden in a wooded area near a big rock, defendant continued to restrain Molly and asked her name, her bra size, and whether she was a virgin. "Out of fear," Molly answered each question. She testified that, as defendant asked her the questions, "[h]e touched my breasts over my clothes and * * * he touched in between my legs and my butt."

         When defendant began to kiss Molly, she testified, that she submitted because she was afraid that "something worse would happen." The defendant removed Molly's shirt and bra, and touched her breasts. Molly testified that she "attempt[ed] to stop him and gave up because [she] was too weak." At trial, she explained that she was crying and had her eyes closed "a lot" of the time, because she was afraid. The defendant next asked Molly to "give him a blow job for $20[.]" She refused. The defendant proceeded to unzip his pants and "tried to force [her] to give him a blow job" by pushing her head down towards his penis. Molly struggled to lift her head up, and, after a few attempts, defendant released her head. The defendant pushed Molly onto the ground and pulled her pants and underwear off. She testified: "He undid his pants and boxers and pulled them down to his ankles and then got on top of me." As Molly lay on her back, defendant laid "99 percent" of his body on top of her and "stuck his penis inside of [her] vagina." After a few minutes or so, defendant stopped, got up from the ground, and began to put his clothes back on. According to Molly, when his back was turned, she jumped up, grabbed her clothes and ran, naked, down the hill.

         At this point it was getting dark outside, and, as she ran to her grandparents' home, crying and vomiting, she put her clothes back on. Although it was rush hour and she ran past homes and open businesses, Molly testified, she saw no one, nor did anyone ask if she needed help. When Molly arrived at her grandparents' home, it was past 5:30-when she was expected to be home-and her grandparents were irate. She did not tell her grandparents about the incident because she was not "comfortable telling them what happened" and she was "ashamed"; she testified: "I felt defiled. * * * I felt dirty. Disgusting." When Molly's father arrived to pick her up, he was also furious. At trial, Molly testified that she and her father had a contentious relationship and that her late arrival home that night had made matters worse. After he shouted at her and used demeaning names, the two went home; and, shortly thereafter, she was grounded. Molly did not tell her father about the assault because, she testified, she "was scared and ashamed and embarrassed and it is definitely something that I was not comfortable talking with my father about, something that he wouldn't understand."

         The next day, Molly went to her guidance counselor, Robin Corrigan (Corrigan), and told her that defendant kissed and touched her inappropriately the night before-Molly did not mention that defendant allegedly had raped her. Corrigan contacted the school resource officer, Officer David Chattman (Officer Chattman), to report the assault, and Molly told him what she had told Corrigan. Officer Chattman contacted Det. Ryan, who was the officer in charge of the Juvenile Division of the Woonsocket Police Department, and informed him that a sexual assault had occurred at Cass Park next to the high school. Later that day, Molly met with Det. Ryan at the police station and positively identified defendant from a photo lineup as the man who assaulted ...

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