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Commonwealth v. Garcia

Appeals Court of Massachusetts, Bristol

March 1, 2019


          Heard: December 10, 2018.

         Indictments found and returned in the Superior Court Department on August 16, 2012. The case was tried before Frances A. Mclntyre, J.

          Michael J. Hickson for the defendant.

          Mary E. Lee, Assistant District Attorney, for the Commonwealth.

          Present: Green, C.J., Wolohojian, & Wendlandt, JJ.

          GREEN, C.J.

         After a jury trial, the defendant, Cirilo Garcia, was convicted of dissemination of matter harmful to a minor, G. L. c. 272, § 28; rape of a child aggravated by age difference, G. L. c. 265, § 23A (a.);[1] incest, G. L. c. 272, § 17; and witness intimidation, G. L. c. 268, § 13B, all arising from a series of assaults against his biological daughter when she was between the ages of seven and eleven.[2] On appeal he contends that (1) the conviction of dissemination of matter harmful to a minor must be vacated, because of a statutory exception applicable to parents and legal guardians, (2) his conviction on one indictment for rape must be vacated, because the indictment was improperly amended at trial, (3) the conviction of incest must be vacated because the jury instructions prejudicially enlarged the indictment for that charge, and (4) the evidence of witness intimidation was insufficient to support his conviction, because the threats supporting the conviction occurred before any criminal investigation began. We discern no merit in the defendant's challenges to his convictions of incest and witness intimidation, but we conclude that we are constrained to reverse the challenged counts of rape and dissemination of matter harmful to a minor.

         Background. The defendant is the victim's father. The defendant moved to the United States from Guatemala around the time of the victim's birth in 2000. His wife, the victim's mother, followed him to the United States in 2003, leaving their two children with their maternal grandmother in Guatemala. In 2006, when the victim was five or six years old, she moved to New Bedford to live with her parents and siblings[3] and met the defendant for the first time. The defendant and his wife worked different shifts, such that the defendant was home alone with the children in the morning and sent them off to school. However, the victim missed "a lot" of school because her father kept her home. When the victim was seven years old, the defendant began raping her.

         In all, from the time the victim was seven until she was eleven, the defendant raped her forty or more times. As the defendant raped the victim, he would talk about the victim's aunt's recent marriage and sex life despite the victim's protests that she was "too little to hear about it." The defendant also showed the victim naked men "putting their private stuff on each other" on the Playboy television channel as he raped her. The defendant threatened to kill the victim, her mother, and her family if she ever told anyone about the abuse. He told the victim that even if he went to jail and got deported he would pay someone to kill her and her family.

         On July 8, 2012, the defendant raped the victim vaginally, orally, and anally. This was the last time the defendant raped her; she disclosed the abuse to her mother on that date. She disclosed the abuse because her parents were fighting, the children had to intervene, and the victim thought her "dad was actually going to kill" her mother. The victim went into her mother's bedroom, locked the door, and hid in the closet with her mother as she described the abuse. After the disclosure, the victim spoke to the police and went to the hospital. A nurse there took vaginal and anal-rectal swabs. The defendant's deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) matched the major profile of the sperm found on both swabs. A supervisor in the State police forensics laboratory testified that the defendant's DNA profile is "very rare."[4]

         Discussion. 1. Dissemination of matter harmful to a minor. The defendant contends, and the Commonwealth concedes, that his conviction of dissemination of matter harmful to a minor cannot stand because the statute provides a defense where "the defendant was in a parental or guardianship relationship with the minor." G. L. c. 272, § 28. See Commonwealth v. Poitras, 55 Mass.App.Ct. 691, 692 n.l (2002). Our independent review of the record, see Commonwealth v. McClary, 33 Mass.App.Ct. 678, 686 n.6 (1992), cert, denied, 510 U.S. 975 (1993), demonstrates that the defendant was in a parental relationship with the victim, [5] and he is entitled to the parental defense provided by the statute. Accordingly, his conviction of dissemination of matter harmful to a minor under G. L. c. 272, § 28, must be reversed.

         2. Rape of a child aggravated by age difference. The defendant contends that his conviction of rape of a child aggravated by age difference on indictment no. 2012-742-1 (indictment no. 1) must be reversed because the Commonwealth's proof, the judge's instructions, and the verdict slip constructively amended the indictment. The defendant argues that the judge's instructions "enlarge[d]" the indictment, "replaced" its allegation, and "impermissibly permit[ted] a material change" in the grand jury's work, thereby violating his due process rights by "adding an additional ground of criminal liability for which the defendant could be found guilty."

         Crimes must be "proved as charged," so as to "protect [ ] the grand jury's role in the criminal process and ensure[] that the defendant has proper notice of the charges against him." Commonwealth v. Hobbs, 385 Mass. 863, 869 (1982). See art. 12 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights. "A constructive amendment to an indictment occurs when either the government (usually during its presentation of evidence and/or its argument), the court (usually through its instructions to the jury), or both, broadens the possible bases for conviction beyond those presented by the grand jury" (citation omitted). Commonwealth v. Bynoe, 49 Mass.App.Ct. 687, 691-692 (2000) . "[A]n amendment may not broaden the charges against a defendant." Commonwealth v. Ruidiaz, 65 Mass.App.Ct. 462, 464 (2006). Indictments may be amended as to form but not as to substance. See Mass. R. Crim. P. 4 (d), 378 Mass. 849 (1979). An amendment is substantive where "an acquittal on the original charge would not bar prosecution on the amended charge." Bynoe, 49 Mass.App.Ct. at 691.

         Here, indictment no. 1 charged the defendant with rape of a child aggravated by age difference under G. L. c. 265, § 23A(a.) . [6] The text of the indictment alleged that the defendant "did have sexual intercourse" with the victim, a "child under sixteen years of age when there existed more than a five-year age difference" between them. At the commencement of trial, the Commonwealth made clear that it intended to rely at trial on the oral or anal rape of the victim, and the Commonwealth consistently did so during the course of the trial. Consistent with that approach, ...

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