STATE v. CHAD PETITPAS, SC 18076

Judicial District of Waterbury

 

      Criminal; Whether Court Properly Allowed State to Amend Information to Eliminate Any Reference to Defendant's "Threat of Use of Force" as an Alternate Method for Committing Sexual Assault; Whether Court Properly Declined to Instruct Jury as to the Reasonableness of the Victim's Fear; Whether Evidence was Sufficient to Convict Defendant of First Degree Sexual Assault.  The state charged the defendant with two counts of first degree sexual assault.  Each count alleged that the defendant committed sexual assault by compelling another person to engage in sexual intercourse by the use of force or "by threat of use of force against such other person which reasonably causes such person to fear physical injury to such person."  After the state rested its case, it moved to amend the information to eliminate any reference to the defendant's "threat of use of force" as an alternate method for accomplishing first degree sexual assault.  It sought to charge the defendant only with compelling another person to engage in sexual intercourse by the use of force.  The trial court granted the state's motion to amend.  Thereafter, the parties discussed the proposed jury instructions at a charging conference.  The state sought to eliminate any language regarding the "threat of use of force" method of committing sexual assault and the reasonableness of the victim's fear.  The defendant asserted that under the amended information, the state needed to prove that the victim reasonably feared physical injury.  The court disagreed with the defendant and refused to instruct the jury regarding the reasonableness of the victim's fear.  It determined that such an instruction related to the "threat of use of force" method of committing sexual assault.  The jury subsequently returned a verdict of guilty on both counts, and the defendant moved for a judgment of acquittal.  He alleged that the state failed to produce sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he engaged in first degree sexual assault.  The court denied the defendant's motion and sentenced him in accordance with the jury's verdict.  In this appeal, the defendant argues that the trial court improperly permitted the state to amend the information at the close of its case and improperly instructed the jury as to first degree sexual assault.  He specifically claims that the state failed to provide sufficient good cause for the amendment of the information and that the court, in allowing the amendment and in refusing to instruct the jury regarding the reasonableness of the victim's fear, eliminated the need for the state to prove an essential element of first degree sexual assault.  In addition, he argues that the prosecutor improperly misstated facts, introduced facts that were not in evidence, expressed personal opinion and bolstered the credibility of the state's witness during closing argument.  Moreover, he argues that there was insufficient evidence to prove that he compelled the victim by force to engage in sexual intercourse.