STATE v. JAMES T. WARD, SC 18897/18898

Judicial District of Windham


      Criminal; Sexual Assault; Kidnapping; Whether the Statute of Limitations was Tolled Because the Defendant Fled From This State Within the Meaning of General Statutes § 54-193 (c); Whether the Trial Court Properly Found that the Restraint of the Victim was Incidental to the Sexual Assault.  In 1988, a woman was sexually assaulted inside her Killingly home.  In 2007, the defendant was arrested and charged with first degree kidnapping and first degree sexual assault in connection with that incident.  The defendant, who was a Massachusetts resident at the time of the crime and until his arrest, traveled occasionally to Connecticut for his job.  He moved to dismiss the sexual assault charge, contending that the prosecution was barred by the statute of limitations.  The state claimed that the five year limitations period was tolled under General Statutes (Rev. to 1987) § 54-193 (c) because the defendant had "fled from and resided out of this state" during that period.  Construing the term "fled" to mean that the accused absented himself with the intent to avoid prosecution, the court denied the motion to dismiss, finding that there was probable cause to believe that the defendant, after committing the crime, fled from this state with the intent to avoid detection and prosecution, even if he left, in part, simply to return home.  After the jury found the defendant guilty as charged, he filed a motion for judgment of acquittal.  With respect to the sexual assault conviction, the court, finding that the state met its burden of proving that the statute of limitations was tolled under § 54-193, denied the motion.  As to the kidnapping conviction, the defendant argued that the evidence showing that he moved the victim from the kitchen to the bedroom, where the sexual assault took place, was insufficient to prove, as required under State v. Salamon, 287 Conn. 509 (2008), that he prevented the victim's liberation for a longer period of time or to a greater degree than that which was necessary to commit the sexual assault.  The court agreed with the defendant and vacated the kidnapping conviction.  The state has appealed that ruling, contending that the jury reasonably could have found that the defendant's restraint of the victim was not merely incidental to the sexual assault.  The state further contends that even if the evidence did not support the kidnapping conviction, the trial court should have modified the judgment to reflect a conviction of the lesser included offense of second degree unlawful restraint.  The defendant has also appealed, claiming that the trial court improperly found that the statute of limitations for prosecuting the sexual assault charge was tolled by virtue of his absence from Connecticut.