State v. Doyle, 070820 RISC, 2017-312-C.A.

Docket Nº2017-312-C.A.
Opinion JudgeMaureen McKenna Goldberg, Associate Justice
Party NameState v. Daniel E. Doyle, Jr.
AttorneyFor State: Lauren S. Zurier Christopher R. Bush Department of Attorney General For Defendant: Gary G. Pelletier, Esq. David A. Levy, Esq.
Judge PanelPresent: Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and Indeglia, JJ.
Case DateJuly 08, 2020
CourtSupreme Court of Rhode Island

State

v.

Daniel E. Doyle, Jr.

No. 2017-312-C.A.

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

July 8, 2020

Washington County Superior Court W1/13-193A Melanie Wilk Thunberg Associate Justice

For State: Lauren S. Zurier Christopher R. Bush Department of Attorney General

For Defendant: Gary G. Pelletier, Esq. David A. Levy, Esq.

Present: Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and Indeglia, JJ.

OPINION

Maureen McKenna Goldberg, Associate Justice

This case came before the Supreme Court on January 22, 2020, on appeal by the defendant, Daniel Doyle, from a judgment of conviction following jury verdicts of guilty on eighteen counts of financial fraud crimes under the Rhode Island General Laws. The trial justice sentenced the defendant to a total of seven years to serve in prison, with the balance of the eighteen concurrent sentences suspended, with probation. The defendant timely appealed. For the reasons set forth in this opinion, we affirm the judgment of the Superior Court.

Facts and Travel

The criminal prosecution giving rise to this appeal arose from defendant's long-term tenure as executive director of the Institute for International Sport (the Institute), a Rhode Island nonprofit corporation formed in 1987. Essentially, allegations of defendant's decades-long abuse of power and larcenous behavior as director of the Institute eventually spawned a grand jury investigation and these convictions.

The Institute was founded in May 1987, with the laudatory goal of "expanding the opportunities for young people around the world to participate in sports activities in order to improve and develop their capabilities[.]" Initially, the Institute was housed in Adams Hall, a building owned by the University of Rhode Island (URI or the University) and located on URI's Kingston campus. The Institute was well known for conducting the "World Scholar-Athlete Games" every four years, from 1993 until 2011, during which young students from countries across the world traveled to Rhode Island to participate in team-based activities, meet students from other countries, and learn about topics such as ethics.1

The Institute's by-laws specified that any financial commitment or other significant decision must be approved by a vote of the Institute's board of directors. The board also was charged with oversight of the executive director, who-for virtually all of the Institute's existence-was defendant. As the trial record established, while there may have been some semblance of corporate governance in place when the Institute was incorporated in May 1987, over time, any pretense of legitimate corporate governance completely disappeared. The absence of corporate governance-and the brazen manner in which defendant took advantage of the lack of oversight-led to the criminal acts for which he was convicted.

The fact that meaningful oversight from the board of directors was, at best, de minimis throughout the Institute's history is mirrored in defendant's statement that the board members were mere "figureheads," and in testimony at trial establishing that the purported members of the board of directors never held board meetings. For over two decades, defendant ran the day-today affairs of the Institute, exercising rigid control over the employees and all of the Institute's projects. In its infancy, however, the Institute was not without some accountability. For example, when the Institute's office was in Adams Hall, the University required proper documentation of the expenses that it had agreed to pay on the Institute's behalf, with the expectation of reimbursement. Moreover, David Florence, an accountant who prepared reports and budgets and handled accounts payable, from roughly 1992 to 2004, also provided some degree of fiscal control. Once Florence left the Institute in 2004, however, there was scant fiscal control. From that point forward, employees who attempted to create order in the Institute's finances were either abruptly removed by defendant or resigned in frustration.

The evidence demonstrated that the offenses for which defendant eventually was convicted arose out of his activities during this period of exiguous accountability, beginning in the early 2000s. After several years in Adams Hall, the Institute relocated its offices to the "Hall of Fame Building," a recognizable campus structure located on Kingstown Road in Kingston. One building was not enough. At some point, defendant decided that the Institute needed a second building, which would be called the "Leadership Building." He proceeded to solicit funds from several sources, including-but not limited to-Alan Hassenfeld, a former chairman and CEO of Hasbro, Inc., and Alan Shawn Feinstein, a well-known Rhode Island philanthropist. Funds were also secured from the State of Rhode Island in 2007, in two grants from the General Assembly's Joint Committee on Legislative Services (JCLS), which totaled $575, 000. The evidence disclosed that these grants were sufficient to pay the cost of construction of the Leadership Building.

Although work commenced on this project, the building was never completed. Ms. Marisa White-a hero in this saga-was the director of JCLS during that period. According to White, she drove by URI's campus in 2009-well after the disbursement of the grant money- and discovered that the Leadership Building was still under construction even though it should have long been completed. She contacted the Speaker of the House of Representatives to notify him that the construction was not completed. In 2011, she again notified the Speaker that the building remained unfinished. This call prompted an investigation by JCLS, which was referred to the office of the state Auditor General, Dennis Hoyle.

The Auditor General issued a report on his findings in February 2012, and a grand jury investigation into defendant and the Institute ensued. The grand jury investigation resulted in an eighteen-count indictment, charging defendant with seven counts of embezzlement in violation of G.L. 1956 § 11-41-3, one count of obtaining money under false pretenses under §§ 11-41-4 and 11-41-5, five counts of forgery in violation of G.L. 1956 § 11-17-1, and five counts of giving false documents to an agent, employee, or public official in violation of G.L. 1956 § 11-18-1.

The defendant filed motions to dismiss the indictment, and to suppress all of the evidence obtained as a result of the search of any place or the seizure of any thing of his or that of the Institute.[2] The trial justice denied both motions. The defendant filed a pretrial motion in limine to exclude various pieces of evidence and the testimony of witnesses on the basis of Rules 403 and 404 of the Rhode Island Rules of Evidence. The motion in limine also was denied, and is discussed in greater detail infra.

Trial commenced on September 19, 2016, and lasted twelve weeks, with over sixty-five witnesses and hundreds of exhibits. On December 5, 2016, the jury returned guilty verdicts on all eighteen counts. The defendant subsequently moved for a new trial, as well as a motion in arrest of judgment pursuant to Rule 34 of the Superior Court Rules of Criminal Procedure.3

In a lengthy and comprehensive decision, the trial justice denied defendant's motion for a new trial and his motion in arrest of judgment. The trial justice thoroughly reviewed the facts of the case and concluded that the evidence at trial established beyond any doubt that the board of directors "was a chimerical product of the [d]efendant's incessant and far-flung chicanery." The trial justice's review of each count and the denial of the motion for a new trial as to each count highlighted the pertinent facts established at trial. For example, as to count one, embezzlement arising out of defendant's unauthorized second salary from the Institute, the trial justice stated that the testimony at trial irrefutably established that defendant had taken an unauthorized salary from 2005 through 2011 totaling $501, 538.52. As to count two, embezzlement arising out of unauthorized loan repayments and bonuses taken by defendant, defendant withdrew $251, 157.92 from the Institute, payable to himself. Several of the other counts for embezzlement and the evidence offered to prove them established that defendant helped himself to $117, 274.41 of the Institute's resources to support summer programs he organized independently from the Institute, and to fund his for-profit publishing company. The remaining embezzlement counts arose out of unauthorized payments on an American Express card in the amount of $145, 332.36; unauthorized tuition payments to his daughter's private high school and college totaling $98, 947.97; and unauthorized donations in his name to defendant's alma mater, Bates College, in the amount of $22, 300.

Turning to count eight, obtaining money under false pretenses, the trial justice found that defendant duped Alan Hassenfeld, finding that "[t]he ever-altruistic Mr. Hassenfeld, unsparing in his financial and moral support of the [d]efendant's vision, had been betrayed[, ]" after defendant diverted almost $550, 000 of the money that Mr. Hassenfeld pledged for the Leadership Building for his personal benefit. As to counts nine through eighteen, the trial justice also reviewed the evidence and found that the credible testimonial evidence and the documents presented established unequivocally that the offenses had been proven beyond a reasonable doubt; she denied the motion for a new trial as to those counts as well. Finally, in denying defendant's motion for arrest of judgment, the trial justice found that there were neither infirmities in the indictment nor any defects in jurisdiction.[4]

The defendant was sentenced on August 10, 2017, to...

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