State v. Badaracco

Decision Date21 April 2015
Docket NumberAC 36087
CourtConnecticut Court of Appeals

DiPentima, C. J., and Sheldon and Mihalakos, Js.

(Appeal from Superior Court, judicial district of Fairfield, Devlin, J.)

Richard T. Meehan, Jr., with whom, on the brief, was Edward J. Gavin, for the appellant (defendant).

Leonard C. Boyle, deputy chief state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, was John C. Smriga, state's attorney, for the appellee (state).


DiPENTIMA, C. J. The defendant, Dominic Badaracco, appeals from the judgment of conviction, rendered after a jury trial, of bribery in violation of General Statutes § 53a-147. On appeal, the defendant claims that (1) there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction of bribery as charged on the theory that he offered money to a Superior Court judge to influence a grand jury, (2) the court made improper evidentiary rulings related to the disappearance of the defendant's former wife, and (3) the court improperly limited his cross-examination of a state's witness.1 We disagree, and, therefore, affirm the judgment of conviction.

The jury reasonably could have found the following facts. In August, 1984, Mary Badaracco, the then wife of the defendant, disappeared from her home in Sherman, Connecticut. She did not notify her family as to her whereabouts and has not been seen or heard from since. In May, 2010, the chief state's attorney applied for the empanelment of an investigating grand jury2 to examine the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of Mary Badaracco. This application was approved that same month, and the target of the investigation was the defendant. The investigation was to be conducted in private.3 The grand jury issued subpoenas4 in September, 2010, and began hearing evidence in October, 2010. On October 18, 2010, a subpoena was served upon Joan Perrone, the daughter of the defendant's current wife, Joan Badaracco, ordering her to appear before the grand jury at the New Britain courthouse on October 22, 2010.

The defendant learned of the grand jury's investigation, and spoke to his friend and former business partner, Ronald Richter, about it.5 Richter, in turn, communicated with his childhood friend, the Honorable Robert C. Brunetti, then a judge of the Superior Court (Brunetti), who was assigned to the New Britain judicial district and hearing cases in the Bristol courthouse. The defendant had asked Richter to speak with Brunetti to obtain information about the grand jury.6 Richter explained that the defendant had known Brunetti for years through Richter, and that the defendant was not as close to Brunetti as Richter was.7

One morning in October, 2010, after his conversation with the defendant, Richter called Brunetti and asked if he knew anything about a grand jury sitting in New Britain investigating the defendant. Brunetti replied that he had no knowledge of such a grand jury. When Richter inquired if Brunetti could find out any information regarding such a grand jury, Brunetti replied, "Probably not, but I will see what I can find out." Despite this statement, Brunetti "made no attempts to find out anything." Nevertheless, as a result of conversation during a lunch with other judges assigned to the New Britainjudicial district, Brunetti became aware of the existence of the grand jury. Four or five days later, when Richter telephoned him again, Brunetti confirmed for him the existence of the grand jury.

On November 17, 2010, the defendant, using Richter's telephone, spoke with Brunetti at his home at approximately 7:40 a.m. The defendant stated: "Bobby [meaning Brunetti] I need your help, they've all been subpoenaed for Friday." Brunetti replied: "[T]here's nothing I can do. I can't get involved in this. There's nothing I can do to help you . . . . You're just going to have to wait and see what happens." The defendant responded: "[L]isten, I'm only going to say this once, it's worth 100 Gs." Brunetti testified that he was stunned by what he interpreted as an offer of money for interfering with the grand jury investigation and hung up the telephone. The next day, Brunetti reported the defendant's actions to the chief court administrator, who notified the chief state's attorney.

On the afternoon of November 18, 2010, Brunetti met with two inspectors from the Office of the Chief State's Attorney, Robert Hughes and Jay St. Jacques. At the request of the inspectors, Brunetti made a recorded telephone call to Richter as part of the investigation into the circumstances surrounding the defendant's call to Brunetti, which had been made from Richter's phone.8 Thereafter, on December 2, 2010, also at the inspectors' request, Brunetti telephoned the defendant to arrange a meeting with him for the following day.9 Although the defendant agreed to the proposed meeting, he did not appear for it.10

The state presented evidence regarding the defendant's access to, and therefore his ability to pay Bru-netti, the sum of $100,000. Elaine Johnson, the branch manager of the Webster Bank in Shelton, testified that the defendant had moved separate sums of $57,617 and $127,411.37 from two different IRA accounts into the checking account of Joan Badaracco on November 15, 2010. This money, totaling approximately $185,000, was transferred from Joan Badaracco to the defendant on December 10, 2010.

The jury found the defendant guilty of bribery, and the court sentenced him to seven years incarceration, followed by three years of special parole. This appeal followed. Additional facts will be set forth as necessary.


The defendant first claims that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction for bribery.11 Specifically, the defendant argues that the court improperly denied his motion for a judgment of acquittal that was made after both sides had rested at trial12 and his post-verdict motion for a judgment of acquittal and amended motion for a new trial. On appeal, he contends that the jury could not reasonably have found that he offereda bribe to Brunetti because the evidence did not show that he had expressed an ability and a desire to pay him money to influence the grand jury investigation. We are not persuaded.

Before addressing the substance of the defendant's appellate argument, we set forth our standard of review and identify the relevant legal principles that guide our analysis. "In reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence to support a criminal conviction we apply a two-part test. First, we construe the evidence in the light most favorable to sustaining the verdict. Second, we determine whether upon the facts so construed and the inferences reasonably drawn therefrom the [finder of fact] reasonably could have concluded that the cumulative force of the evidence established guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. . . .

"We note that the jury must find every element proven beyond a reasonable doubt in order to find the defendant guilty of the charged offense, [but] each of the basic and inferred facts underlying those conclusions need not be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. . . . If it is reasonable and logical for the jury to conclude that a basic fact or an inferred fact is true, the jury is permitted to consider the fact proven and may consider it in combination with other proven facts in determining whether the cumulative effect of all the evidence proves the defendant guilty of all the elements of the crime charged beyond a reasonable doubt. . . .

"Moreover, it does not diminish the probative force of the evidence that it consists, in whole or in part, of evidence that is circumstantial rather than direct. . . . It is not one fact, but the cumulative impact of a multitude of facts which establishes guilt in a case involving substantial circumstantial evidence. . . . In evaluating evidence, the [finder] of fact is not required to accept as dispositive those inferences that are consistent with the defendant's innocence. . . . The [finder of fact] may draw whatever inferences from the evidence or facts established by the evidence it deems to be reasonable and logical. . . .

"Finally, [a]s we have often noted, proof beyond a reasonable doubt does not mean proof beyond all possible doubt . . . nor does proof beyond a reasonable doubt require acceptance of every hypothesis of innocence posed by the defendant that, had it been found credible by the [finder of fact], would have resulted in an acquittal. . . . On appeal, we do not ask whether there is a reasonable view of the evidence that would support a reasonable hypothesis of innocence. We ask, instead, whether there is a reasonable view of the evidence that supports the [finder of fact's] verdict of guilty." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Chase, 154 Conn. App. 337, 354-55, A.3d (2014); see also State v. Crenshaw, 313 Conn. 69, 93, 95 A.3d 1113 (2014); State v. Rodriguez-Roman, 297 Conn. 66,73-74, 3 A.3d 783 (2010).

We now set forth the applicable law regarding the crime of bribery, focusing on the specific question raised in this appeal, that is, whether the state met its burden of proof that the defendant made an offer to pay Brunetti money in exchange for Brunetti's influencing the grand jury investigation. General Statutes § 53a-147 (a) provides: "A person is guilty of bribery if he promises, offers, confers or agrees to confer upon a public servant or a person selected to be a public servant, any benefit as consideration for the recipient's decision, opinion, recommendation or vote as a public servant or a person selected to be a public servant." (Emphasis added.) See generally State v. Carr, 172 Conn. 458, 468, 374 A.2d 1107 (1977). This statute has been construed broadly to prevent corruption in public service. Id.; see also State v. Rado, 14 Conn. App. 322, 329, 541 A.2d 124, cert. denied, 208 Conn. 813, 546 A.2d 282, cert. denied, 488 U.S. 927, 109 S. Ct. 311, 102 L. Ed. 2d 330 (1988); see generally State v. Bergin, 214 Conn. 657, 662, ...

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