Plaintiff: Michael S. Pezzullo, Esq.
Defendant: Bethany A. Laskowski, Esq.
Matteson (Appellant) brings this appeal from a December 11,
2018 decision of the Drug Court Magistrate (the Magistrate)
affirming his Risk Level III sex offender classification
order issued by the Board. Appellant contends that the Board
improperly disregarded his risk assessment test results in
determining his classification pursuant to the Rhode Island
Sexual Offender Registration and Community Notification Act
(the Act), G.L. 1956 §§ 11-37.1-1 et seq.
Appellant also contends that the Board "carried out a
vendetta" against him because he was a State employee at
the time of his arrest. Tr. I at 4, Nov. 20, 2018.
the reasons set forth herein, the Court affirms the decision
of the Magistrate. This Court exercises jurisdiction over
this matter pursuant to G.L. 1956 § 8-2-39.2(j).
March 11, 2013, Appellant entered a plea of nolo
contendere in Washington County Superior Court to one
count of indecent solicitation of a minor. Tr. I at 3. In his
decision upholding the Board's classification, the
Magistrate discussed the factual background supporting the
charge and conviction. The case came to the attention of the
Richmond Police Department when the father of the victim
reported that his son had received sexually explicit text
messages from Appellant, the boy's soccer coach. Tr. II
at 8-9. Appellant sent texts "that stated, 'Told you
I was quite kinky.' Further, 'I got something for
your ass, LOL' … 'You might hurt for a couple
days after, LOL.'" Id. at 9. With the
consent of the victim's father, a police detective took
the victim's phone and posed as the minor. Appellant then
exchanged a series of sexually explicit text messages with
the detective, believing him to be the fifteen-year-old
victim. Id. at 9. Appellant texted, "You just
tell me one thing that you want me to do and I'll fill
you with all your dreams," "As you lick me
also," and "I want to see your hard dick."
Id. at 9-10. He also requested nude pictures of the
boy. Id. at 10.
was sentenced to five years at the Adult Correctional
Institutions, five years of which were suspended with five
years of probation. The sentence included a no contact order
with the victim, sex offender counseling and registration.
See Sex Offender Community Notification Unit
Interview (SOCNU Interview) at 1. Appellant complied with the
terms of his release, and his probation ended on March 10,
2018. Tr. I at 3.
was not Appellant's only contact with the system as a sex
offender. On February 15, 2013, he pled guilty in the United
States District Court for the District of Rhode Island to
charges of receiving, possessing, and distributing child
pornography. Tr. II at 8. The State Police discovered the
images when its Computer Crime Unit reviewed Appellant's
cell phone, computer, thumb drives, and a CD from Google
Legal Services containing Appellant's e-mails.
Id. at 10-11. The complete inspection yielded images
of prepubescent children-some appearing as young as five
years old-with multiple images depicting nude prepubescent
males engaged in graphic sexual acts with adult males.
Id. at 11-12. That investigation demonstrated that
Appellant was distributing and receiving pictures and videos
of child pornography. Id. After Appellant pled
guilty in that case, the District Court sentenced Appellant
to sixty months to serve followed by ten years supervised
release, as well as sex offender counseling and registration.
See SOCNU Interview at 2.
August 24, 2017, SOCNU probation officer Mary-Anne Campbell
interviewed Appellant before the anticipated termination of
his state probation. See SOCNU Interview at 3. Ms.
Campbell reported the contents of the interview in a
seventeen-page document. See id. Appellant claimed
that he collected child pornography because he was
"looking for answers" as to why he was sexually
abused as a child. Id. at 3. Appellant further
stated that he had not intended to meet with his solicitation
victim and that he "thought it was all a big joke."
Id. at 5.
presented himself to the Kent Center for counseling and
psychiatric assessment on October 23, 2017. See Tr.
II at 4. Appellant discussed his history of childhood abuse,
his prior hospitalization for suicidal ideation, and past
medical history. See Appellant's Mem. in Supp.
of Argument on Sex Offender Classification (Appellant Mem.),
Exhibit B, Kent Center Initial Psychiatric Assessment (the
Kent Center Assessment) at 2.
accordance with the requirements of the Act, §
11-37.1-3, Appellant registered as a sex offender following
his release from federal custody. Tr. II at 2. Pursuant to
§ 11-37.1-6, the Board is required to determine the risk
level of each offender. In Appellant's case, the Board
issued its Decision on December 28, 2017, classifying him as
a Level III risk to reoffend. See Decision at 1. As
part of the Decision, the Board employed three validated risk
assessment tools-the Static-99R, the Stable 2007, and the
Static 2002R. Id. Appellant scored in the
"Average Risk" category on the Static-99R and
Static 2002R tests and scored in the "Low Risk"
category on the Stable 2007 test. Id.
January 8, 2018, Appellant timely filed a request for review
of the Board's classification. Tr. I at 1. Pursuant to
§ 11-37.1-14, the Court appointed legal counsel to
represent Appellant at the hearing before the Magistrate.
Magistrate conducted a hearing on November 20, 2018, at which
both Appellant and the State had an opportunity to present
oral argument, testimony, and further evidence. Tr. I at 2.
For its part of the case, the Attorney General submitted the
administrative record, consisting of Appellant's appeal
request from the Board's Decision; the Decision; the
SOCNU Interview; Appellant's State Judgment of Conviction
and Commitment; the Richmond Police Department Police
Narrative; Appellant's Arrest Report and Witness
Statement to Detectives Drew Bishop and Eric Yell of the
Richmond Police Department; Appellant's Conditions of
Probation; and the Notice of Duty to Register. At the
hearing, Appellant introduced exhibits into evidence that
included his Progress Reports from sex offender counseling
with the Counseling & Psychotherapy Center (CPC) as well
as his Kent Center Assessment. Tr. I at 2.
weeks later, on December 11, 2018, the Magistrate issued a
bench decision, finding that Appellant's Level III sex
offender classification was supported by the record and
should be affirmed and rejecting arguments that Appellant
warranted a lower classification based on his risk assessment
results. Tr. II at 19-20. He also found no evidence for
Appellant's contention that his Level III classification
was the result of the Board's "vendetta"
against him due to his employment with the State correctional
system at the time of his arrest. Id. at 18. In his
decision, the Magistrate referenced the large volume of child
pornography possessed by Appellant. Id. at 19. He
also noted his position as an authority figure over the
children he coached on a high school boys' soccer team,
and his abuse of that position by soliciting and sending
sexually explicit text messages to one of the boys on his
Magistrate found that, given the multiple offenses that
Appellant committed over a long period of time, the
Board's Decision classifying Appellant as a Level III
offender was supported by the record and should be affirmed.
Id. The Magistrate noted both the progress Appellant
was making in counseling and that he had a steady support
system, but concluded that those factors, although favorable
to Appellant, did not impact his finding that the Board did
not err in classifying Appellant as a Level III offender.
the Magistrate's December 11, 2018 decision, Appellant,
through counsel, filed a timely appeal seeking review of the
Magistrate's decision by a justice of this Court pursuant
to § 8-2-39.2(j). Months later, on September 18, 2019,
Appellant's counsel first requested the transcripts from
Appellant's two appearances before the Magistrate. In
pursuing a Motion for Extension of Time to Transmit the
Record on Appeal, counsel candidly acknowledged that he
"assumed, incorrectly, that same [transcripts] were not
necessary due to the nature of the appeal." See
Appellant's Mem. in Supp. of Mot. for Extension of Time,
Sept. 19, 2019. The Court granted the Motion for Extension of
Time, applying a "good cause" standard.
See Bench Decision Granting Mot. for Extension of
Time, October 17, 2019.  The Court acknowledged that it was a
"close call," but would grant the Motion due to the
absence of prejudice to the State, even though ignorance of
the law does not provide an excuse for an untimely filing.
Court now turns to the merits of the appeal-namely, whether
the Board was justified in classifying Appellant as a Level
III sex offender despite the results of the validated risk