Anthony A. v. Department of Correction
By Larry . . . This is a lingering case that has gone on for several years. NARSOL has decided to use fewer quotes from the court’s opinion than we normally do because some of the language is very graphic in terms of the sexual acts alleged. In 2017, the Connecticut Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Appellate Court, which had concluded that petitioner Anthony A. had a protected liberty interest in not being incorrectly classified as a sex offender for purposes of determining his housing, security, and treatment needs by the Department of Correction. See Anthony A. v. Commissioner of Correction, 326 Conn. 668, 166 A.3d 614 (2017). Despite the 2017 decision from the state’s highest court, the Connecticut Department of Correction decided to classify him as a sexual offender. The present decision is a result of a habeas petition filed by Anthony A., hereinafter referred to as the petitioner or he where appropriate.
Underlying Sexual Allegations
Based on the facts written in the court’s opinion, the petitioner was arrested and charged with several offenses, including sexual assault in a spousal relationship in connection with an incident that occurred overnight from July 18-19, 2011. Petitioner’s former wife, M., informed the police that she and the petitioner had been drinking and smoking crack cocaine, which caused the petitioner to become paranoid and act in a delusional manner. After repeatedly accusing M. of having an affair, the petitioner made her take off her clothing and lie on her back, whereupon he digitally penetrated her. When the petitioner continued to accuse her of having an affair, M, out of annoyance, lied to the petitioner and stated she was having an affair with one of his friends. This caused the petitioner to become violent and to pour soda on M.
The petitioner provided a statement to the police where he admitted getting high on cocaine and questioning M. about whether she was having an affair. He also stated that, throughout the night, as he lay in bed next to M., she said no, that she was not in the mood, and he would stop for a while before trying again. He did this throughout the night, and M. finally threw her phone at him. The petitioner stated that he then took the phone and snapped it in half.
Accuser Subsequently Recanted Allegations
In a notarized letter dated August 17, 2011, M recanted, stating that she did not wish to pursue any charges, that the police report was inaccurate, and that the petitioner never sexually assaulted her. M. explained that she and the petitioner are very sexually active and that any marks on her body that evening came from consensual sexual activity.
On February 21, 2012, the prosecutor informed the trial court that she had met with M., who informed her that she was abusing substances on the night in question, that she no longer recalled her conversation with the police, and that she now believed that something happened different from the sexual assault that was alleged. The prosecutor informed the court that M. also stated that, when she sobered up, she saw what really happened. She stated that she slipped and hit her head in the bathroom which caused her to have a seizure, and sometimes seizures make her believe things that are not actually true.
Guilty Plea and Classification
The state entered a nolle prosequi on the charge of sexual assault in a spousal relationship. The petitioner thereafter pleaded guilty to unlawful restraint in the first degree, failure to appear, and violation of probation, for which he was sentenced to an effective term of three years and six months of incarceration.
Despite the fact that there was no conviction for a sexual offense, the Department of Correction decided with virtually no due process that the petitioner had committed the sexual offense that was dropped. Since the due process clause prohibits the government from depriving a person of certain liberty interests except pursuant to constitutionally adequate procedures, the case was remanded to the habeas court for a determination of whether the Department of Correction had afforded the petitioner the process he was due. The petitioner asserted that the habeas court incorrectly determined that the Commissioner of Correction did not violate his right to procedural due process in classifying him as a sex offender. He also claimed that the habeas court incorrectly determined that this classification did not violate his right to substantive due process nor his right not to be punished.
The Connecticut Supreme Court concluded that the petitioner was not afforded the procedural protections he was due prior to being classified as a sex offender and, therefore, that his classification violated his right to procedural due process under both the federal constitution and the state constitution. They rejected the substantive due process claim. The Court states as follows: “Although the petitioner was afforded some of the procedural protections required by Wolff, it is clear that he was not provided all of them. In particular, he was not provided (1) an opportunity to call witnesses in his defense, (2) adequate notice of the information to be relied on in determining his classification, (3) and an impartial decision maker to rule on his appeal.”
NARSOL is excited about this case and believes it may help others who have been classified inappropriately without adequate due process.
Larry serves as NARSOL’S treasurer and is publisher of the Digest. He writes the “Legal Corner” column for the Digest and legal analyses for the NARSOL website. He is a regular on the “Registry Matters” podcasts.