State v. Sorabella

Decision Date07 February 2006
Docket NumberNo. 17215.,17215.
CourtConnecticut Supreme Court
PartiesSTATE of Connecticut v. John SORABELLA III.

Richard Emanuel, New Haven, for the appellant (defendant).

Timothy J. Sugrue, senior assistant state's attorney, with whom were Louis Luba, Jr., assistant state's attorney, and, on the brief, Scott J. Murphy, state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

SULLIVAN, C.J., and BORDEN, KATZ, PALMER and ZARELLA, Js.

PALMER, J.

A jury found the defendant, John Sorabella III, guilty of two counts of attempt to commit sexual assault in the second degree in violation of General Statutes §§ 53a-71 (a)(1)1 and 53a-49 (a) (2),2 two counts of attempt to commit risk of injury to a child by sexual contact in violation of General Statutes (Rev. to 1999) § 53-21(2)3 and § 53a-49 (a)(2), three counts of attempt to commit risk of injury to a child in violation of General Statutes (Rev. to 1999) § 53-21(1)4 and § 53a-49 (a)(1),5 one count of attempt to entice a minor to engage in sexual activity in violation of General Statutes §§ 53a-90a (a)6 and 53a-49 (a) (1), one count of importing child pornography in violation of General Statutes (Rev. to 1999) § 53a-196c7 and one count of obscenity in violation of General Statutes § 53a-194 (a).8 The trial court rendered judgments in accordance with the jury verdicts and sentenced the defendant to a total effective term of ten years imprisonment, execution suspended after five years, and fifteen years probation. On appeal,9 the defendant claims that: (1) he was improperly convicted of attempt to commit sexual assault in the second degree and attempt to commit risk of injury to a child because neither of those charges represents a cognizable crime; (2) even if attempt to commit sexual assault in the second degree and attempt to commit risk of injury to a child are cognizable crimes, the evidence adduced by the state was insufficient to support the jury's finding of guilty with respect to those offenses, as well as the offenses of importing child pornography and attempt to entice a minor; (3) the statutes defining the crimes of attempt to commit sexual assault in the second degree and attempt to commit risk of injury to a child are void for vagueness; (4) the trial court improperly instructed the jury on the crimes of attempt to commit sexual assault in the second degree, attempt to commit risk of injury to a child, importing child pornography, and obscenity; (5) the crime of importing child pornography is applicable only to the commercial importation of child pornography and not to the defendant's conduct in the present case; and (6) the trial court improperly permitted the state to adduce expert testimony regarding the characteristics of a certain category of sex offenders. We reject the defendant's claims and, accordingly, affirm the judgments of the trial court.

The jury reasonably could have found the following facts. In January, 2000, the New Britain police department initiated an undercover investigation into possible criminal violations of state child pornography laws over the Internet. In particular, on January 4, 2000, Detective James Wardwell assumed the persona of a thirteen year old girl and, using the screen name "Danuta333," entered an America Online (AOL) chat room entitled, "I Love Much Older Men."10 The AOL profile that Wardwell had created identified Danuta333 as a thirteen year old female from Connecticut. After staying in the chat room for less than one minute, Wardwell exited the chat room without initiating contact with any other AOL user. Less than one minute after exiting the chat room, however, Wardwell received an instant message11 from an individual, subsequently identified as the defendant, using the screen name "JoeSkotr."12 The following exchange occurred:

"JoeSkotr: Hello

"Danuta333: hi there

"JoeSkotr: From CT?

"Danuta333: yeah, u?

"JoeSkotr: 42 male from Mass

"Danuta333: that's close to me, kind of

"JoeSkotr: My age an issue?

"Danuta333: is mine??????????

"JoeSkotr: No"

Thereafter, the defendant asked Danuta333 if she had ever "[b]een with someone [his] age," and whether she had a photograph that she could send him. The defendant also asked, "[h]ow old are you again?" Danuta333 replied, "13." The defendant then inquired extensively about Danuta333's prior sexual experience. When Danuta333 asked "why all the questions? ? ?" the defendant replied, "I wanted to see if you had the experience I want. . . ." During this first interaction, the defendant and Danuta333 covered a range of sexually explicit topics, including a discussion of Danuta333's experience with cunnilingus and fellatio and the defendant's preferences regarding the same, as well as Danuta333's breast size. Approximately midway through the conversation,13 the defendant asked Danuta333 if she wanted to meet him, and the following discussion ensued:

"JoeSkotr: How about next week . . . ?

"Danuta333: maybe that will work, how?

"JoeSkotr: E-mail me with the day that is best. I can do it during the day if that helps. . . .

"Danuta333: ok, but i am 13, i don't drive"

A discussion of potential meeting places followed, during which Danuta333 noted that she had "school and stuff and no car ride. . . ." Danuta333 ended the conversation after the defendant had instructed her to e-mail him with the name of a hotel where they could meet.

From approximately January 4, 2000, until March 13, 2000, the defendant and Danuta333 engaged in between twenty and thirty online conversations, the majority of which were sexually explicit in nature. During this period, the defendant e-mailed Danuta333 several still images depicting females of a variety of ages, some of whom were engaged in sexual acts, as well as a video clip depicting an adult female holding ejaculate in her mouth and then swallowing it on command. The defendant represented to Danuta333 that two of the still images depicted a thirteen year old female. On several occasions, the defendant requested that Danuta333 send him a photograph of herself. Using law enforcement software, Wardwell created an image purporting to be a middle school yearbook photograph of Danuta333 and sent the image to the defendant.

The defendant and Danuta333 eventually agreed to meet on March 8, 2000, at a donut shop in New Britain. During an online conversation on March 7, 2000, the defendant explained exactly what Danuta333 was to do for him sexually when she entered his van.14 On March 8, 2000, the defendant traveled to Connecticut but went to the wrong donut shop. On March 9, 2000, the defendant and Danuta333 arranged a second meeting for March 14, 2000, at a shopping plaza in New Britain. On that date, the defendant arrived at the shopping plaza as planned and, upon exiting his vehicle, was arrested by officers of the New Britain police department. After being advised of his Miranda15 rights, the defendant gave an oral statement to the police in which he admitted that, for several months, he had communicated over the Internet with "Dontra,"16 whom he had met in a chat room. The defendant acknowledged that he had come to New Britain to meet her but stated that he had intended to tell her that he was just "goofing," and to thank her for speaking with him online.

The police obtained a search warrant for the defendant's vehicle. Upon executing the warrant, they found a Massachusetts Turnpike receipt dated March 14, 2000, maps of New Britain, and a cellular telephone with a number that corresponded to a number that the defendant had given Danuta333 in their online conversation the previous day. The vehicle also was equipped with a videocassette recorder containing a video entitled "24 Hour Lip Service" that was cued to a scene depicting an adult female performing fellatio on an adult male.17 Later that day, the police also obtained and executed a search warrant for the defendant's home in Massachusetts. Police seized the defendant's computer, a search of which revealed evidence of electronic communications between JoeSkotr and Danuta333, the defendant's receipt of Wardwell's composite images of Danuta333 and the images that the defendant had sent to Danuta333. Additional facts and procedural history will be set forth as necessary.

I

We first address the defendant's contention that attempt to commit sexual assault in the second degree in violation of §§ 53a-71 (a)(1) and 53a-49 (a)(2), and attempt to commit risk of injury to a child in violation of §§ 53-21 and 53a-49 (a)(1) are not cognizable crimes.18 With respect to the former offense, the defendant maintains that § 53a-71 (a)(1) is a strict liability crime and, therefore, cannot be the subject of an attempt. With respect to the latter offense, the defendant contends that, because neither § 53-21(1) nor § 53-21(2) is a specific intent offense, they, too, cannot be the subject of an attempt. We reject the defendant's claims, which we address in turn.

A

To demonstrate a violation of § 53a-71 (a)(1), sometimes referred to as statutory rape; see State v. Jason B., 248 Conn. 543, 553, 729 A.2d 760, cert. denied, 528 U.S. 967, 120 S.Ct. 406, 145 L.Ed.2d 316 (1999); the state must establish that the accused engaged in sexual intercourse with a person who, at that time, was at least thirteen years of age but under sixteen years of age, and that the accused was more than two years older than the other person. See General Statutes § 53a-71 (a)(1). "[T]he only intent required for a violation of § 53a-71 is a general intent to perform the acts that constitute the offense." State v. Pierson, 201 Conn. 211, 216, 514 A.2d 724 (1986); accord State v. Plude, 30 Conn.App. 527, 534-35, 621 A.2d 1342, cert. denied, 225 Conn. 923, 625 A.2d 824 (1993). In other words, "[s]exual assault in the second degree is a general intent crime that requires only...

To continue reading

Request your trial
89 cases
  • State v. Vandeusen
    • United States
    • Connecticut Court of Appeals
    • 3 Noviembre 2015
    ...a statute, it is not the exclusive circumstance under which the test has been utilized by our appellate courts. See State v. Sorabella, 277 Conn. 155, 206-208, 891 A.2d 897 (applying Famiglietti test where trial court's instructions did not expressly require jury to unanimously find that pa......
  • State Of Conn. v. Courchesne, No. 17174.
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • 15 Junio 2010
    ...is determined by the statute's applicability to the particular facts at issue.” (Internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Sorabella, 277 Conn. 155, 192, 891 A.2d 897, cert. denied, 549 U.S. 821, 127 S.Ct. 131, 166 L.Ed.2d 36 (2006). “Second, as a sort of ‘junior version of the vagueness ......
  • State v. Raynor
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • 4 Diciembre 2020
    ...we review that ruling on appeal for an abuse of discretion." (Citation omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Sorabella , 277 Conn. 155, 214, 891 A.2d 897, cert. denied, 549 U.S. 821, 127 S. Ct. 131, 166 L. Ed. 2d 36 (2006). Implicit in that well established principle, however......
  • State v. Stephanie U.
    • United States
    • Connecticut Court of Appeals
    • 24 Agosto 2021
    ...of future review." We conclude, as recognized by the defendant, that we are bound by our Supreme Court's decision in State v. Sorabella , 277 Conn. 155, 172–74, 891 A.2d 897 (rejecting claim that "attempt to commit risk of injury to a child ... is not a cognizable offense"), cert. denied, 5......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • 2005 Connecticut Appellate Review
    • United States
    • Connecticut Bar Association Connecticut Bar Journal No. 79, 2005
    • Invalid date
    ...supra note 46. 83 275 Conn. 205, 881 A.2d 160 (2005). 84 271 Conn. 641, 858 A.2d 767 (2004). 85 273 Conn. 418, 870 A.2d 1039 (2005). 86 277 Conn. 155 (2006). to commit it is also a crime. We agree with all four. One unanimous criminal decision involves junk science, a favorite topic of the ......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT