State v. Antonaras
In its 2008 decision in State v. DeJesus, the Connecticut Supreme Court created an exception, for sex crimes, to the general prohibition against the admission of uncharged misconduct evidence for propensity purposes. Constantinos Antonaras was convicted, following a jury trial, of counts of sexual assault in the first and second degrees and risk of injury to a child in regard to D, for whom Antonaras was appointed legal guardian. Antonaras appealed claiming, inter alia, that the court improperly admitted evidence of the defendant's uncharged sexual misconduct with two other minors, C and R. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment. The trial court admitted the uncharged misconduct testimony as common scheme or plan evidence. After trial, DeJesus was released. The same standard applies to both exceptions. The uncharged misconduct evidence was found admissible under the factors delineated in DeJesus. For the first of three relevancy factors, the Appellate Court concluded that the approximately nine to 12 year gap between the abuse of C and D was not too remote to render the uncharged misconduct evidence irrelevant to prove that the defendant had a propensity to engage in the charged abuse, particularly in light of the other two prongs. Although no Connecticut appellate court case has determined that a 12 year gap is not too remote, cases indicate that a nine and 10 year gap is not too remote and the Supreme Court has cited approvingly cases from other jurisdictions where the evidence was much more remote. Secondly, the uncharged misconduct evidence was found sufficiently similar to the charged abuse. The defendant engaged in a similar grooming process with D, C and R, including providing them with gifts and food. He engaged in similar initial sexual overtures. Although the abuse of D was far more frequent and severe, the jury reasonably could have inferred that this was true because C and R rebuffed and stopped seeing the defendant, while D did not. Third, D, C and R were found sufficiently similar when the abuse began, despite the relationship between the defendant and D later developing into a familial type relationship. The probative value of the evidence was found to outweigh its prejudicial effect. Further, although the trial court improperly instructed the jury on common scheme, the error was harmless.