Judicial District of Stamford-Norwalk


     Criminal; Whether Sexual Assault in Spousal Relationship Statute (§ 53a-70b) Requires Only General Intent to Commit Act that Constitutes a Violation of the Statute.  The victim married the defendant after dating him for a few weeks.  Soon after, the defendant became possessive and began accusing the victim of being unfaithful.  On several occasions, the defendant threatened the victim and exhibited violent behavior, including cutting her arm with a knife and striking her with a belt.  On one occasion, the defendant, after accusing the victim of having an affair, picked her up and, despite her protests that she did not want to have sexual intercourse with him, carried her to the bedroom.  He then proceeded to have sex with her even though she was crying and telling him she did not want to.  The defendant was arrested and charged with sexual assault in a spousal relationship in violation of General Statutes § 53a-70b (b), which provides in pertinent part that "[n]o spouse . . . shall compel the other spouse . . . to engage in sexual intercourse by the use of force . . . or by the threat of the use of force . . . which reasonably causes such other spouse . . . to fear physical injury."  The defendant was convicted and appealed, claiming that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction.  He contended that, in light of the differences between the act of sex between spouses and sex between strangers or acquaintances, § 53a-70b should be interpreted to require proof beyond a reasonable doubt that he (1) acted with the specific intent to commit the act of sexual assault, and (2) used force greater than that which was necessary to separate the victim’s legs or made an immediate threat of the use of force.  The Appellate Court (132 Conn. App. 594) concluded that because the text of the statute does not require that a defendant have the specific intent to commit the act of sexual assault, the statute creates a crime of general intent.  The court also found that the plain language of the statute refuted the defendant's argument regarding the meaning of "use of force."  In addition, it rejected the defendant's assertion that the existence of a separate statute for sexual assault in a spousal relationship should be considered evidence of a legislative intent to treat that crime differently from sexual assault in the first degree.  Applying § 53a-70b (b) according to its plain meaning, the court determined that there was sufficient evidence for the jury to have found beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant compelled his spouse to have sex with him and that his pattern of behavior leading up to the act reasonably led her to fear physical injury.  The Supreme Court will now decide whether the Appellate Court properly determined that § 53a-70b requires that a defendant have only a general intent to commit the act that constituted a violation of the statute.