STATE v. JASMINE LAMANTIA, SC 20190

Judicial District of New London at G.A. 21

 

      Criminal; Witness Tampering; Whether Evidence Sufficient to Prove that Defendant Intended to Induce Witness to Testify Falsely in Imminent or Pending Official Proceeding.  The defendant and her boyfriend, Jason Rajewski, went to a party at a house in Preston.  The defendant entered the house while Rajewski remained outside.  David Moulson, the defendant's former boyfriend, arrived at the house, exited his car, and confronted Rajewski.  Rajewski and Moulson engaged in a verbal and physical confrontation that ended with Rajewski striking Moulson and causing him to bleed.  Moulson called the police, and Rajewski left after the defendant told him about the call.  A police officer spoke to Moulson in the defendant's presence, and Moulson identified Rajewski as his assailant.  The officer then went to Rajewski's residence, and Rajewski presented his cell phone to the officer.  The phone contained text messages from the defendant stating that the police were coming, that she and Rajewski "needed to stick with the same story," that he should delete the messages, that he should "make sure [he was] bloody," and that he should tell the police that he had been involved in an altercation at a bar before the party and had come to the party because he was concerned for the defendant's safety in Moulton's presence.  Rajewski replied to the defendant in the text messages that he was going to tell the truth.  The defendant was subsequently charged with and convicted after a jury trial of tampering with a witness in violation of General Statutes § 53a-151, which provides that "[a] person is guilty . . . if, believing that an official proceeding is pending or about to be instituted, he induces or attempts to induce a witness to testify falsely [or] withhold testimony."  The defendant appealed, claiming that the evidence was insufficient to prove that she sent the text messages to Rajewski with the intent to induce him to testify falsely in an official proceeding.  She argued that, at the time she sent the texts, it simply was not probable that a "criminal court proceeding" would occur in which Rajewski would be called to testify.  The Appellate Court (181 Conn. App. 648) rejected that claim and affirmed the defendant's conviction.  The Appellate Court noted that the term "official proceeding" in § 53a-151 was not limited to a prosecution of Rajewski and it found that the jury could have concluded that the defendant believed that an official proceeding against her or any of the other participants in the altercation was likely to result.  The Appellate Court held that there was sufficient evidence for the jury to reasonably find that, at the time she sent the text messages, the defendant was aware of the police investigation, that she believed that an official proceeding would probably result therefrom, and that she tampered with Rajewski when she sent the text messages telling him to lie to the police.   The defendant was granted certification to appeal from the Appellate Court's decision.  The Supreme Court will decide whether the Appellate Court properly concluded that the evidence was sufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant intended to induce a witness to testify falsely in an official proceeding that she believed to be pending or imminent in violation of General Statutes § 53a-151 (a).