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Torrance Juarez Jenkins v. Commonwealth of Virginia
Case Number: 1428-18-4
Judge: MARLA GRAFF DECKER
Court: COURT OF APPEALS OF VIRGINIA
Plaintiff's Attorney: Liam A. Curry, Assistant Attorney General (Mark R. Herring, Attorney General, on brief)
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The appellant was convicted in 2003 for obtaining money by false pretenses and uttering
a forged check, in violation of Code §§ 18.2-172 and -178. He was sentenced to a total of twenty
1 The circuit court rendered separate sentences for these offenses but imposed the same terms and conditions on both suspensions and treated the sentences as unitary in all subsequent proceedings. As a result, this opinion refers to the appellant’s suspended sentences as a single unit.
2 On appeal of the revocation of a suspended sentence, the appellate court reviews the evidence in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth, the party who prevailed below. Jacobs v. Commonwealth, 61 Va. App. 529, 535 (2013).
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years in prison with fourteen years suspended. The suspension was conditioned, among other
things, on twenty years of good behavior and an indefinite period of supervised probation. In
2010, 2014, and 2018, the appellant was found to have violated the terms and conditions of his
suspended sentence. It is from the 2018 violation that he appeals, and he challenges the
admission of evidence from the 2010 proceeding in the 2018 revocation hearing.
A. The 2010 Revocation Proceeding
In a 2009 letter, Susan Sokol, a senior probation officer for District 21 in Fredericksburg,
notified the Commonwealth’s Attorney that she sought the issuance of a show cause order
against the appellant for violating his probation. In her 2009 letter and a 2010 addendum
(collectively the 2010 report), Sokol notified the court that the appellant violated his probation in
three different ways.
First, the appellant tested positive for cocaine use in April 2009, and he admitted having
used the drug four days earlier. Second, the appellant absconded from supervision. Sokol
reported that after his April 2009 visit to the District 21 probation office, she worked with
District 32 to make a home contact at the address that the appellant had provided for himself in
Henrico County. Sokol detailed some of the specific efforts that she personally took to try to
reach him, as well as “notice” provided by District 32 “that they attempted a home contact” in
July 2009 and were told by the appellant’s aunt that he no longer lived there. Sokol then
checked the local hospital, as well as the Virginia jails, and determined that his “whereabouts
[were] unknown.” Sokol concluded that the appellant had violated the condition of his
suspended sentence that he could “not abscond from supervision” and would be “considered an
absconder when [his] whereabouts [were] no longer known to [his] supervising officer.” Third,
Sokol related that the appellant had been arrested on new misdemeanor charges. The existence
of these new charges was confirmed by the appellant’s criminal history record.
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In the 2010 revocation proceeding, the appellant “pleaded guilty” to “having violated the
terms and conditions of . . . [the] suspension.” The court accepted the appellant’s
acknowledgment of guilt. After receiving evidence and hearing argument, it revoked his
previously suspended fourteen-year sentence and resuspended thirteen years, giving him a year
B. The 2014 Revocation Proceeding
In 2014, the court held a second revocation proceeding based on a new violation. After
hearing evidence and argument, the court found that the appellant had again violated the terms of
his suspended sentence. It revoked his previously suspended thirteen-year sentence, imposed
one year, and resuspended the remaining twelve years.
C. The 2018 Revocation Proceeding
The court held a third revocation hearing in 2018. The appellant “conced[ed] the
violation,” and the court accepted his “plea.” The prosecutor then offered, specifically as
“evidence . . . on the issue of sentence,” the appellant’s criminal history report and his 2010
probation violation report.3 (Emphasis added). The appellant objected to the admission of the
report on testimonial hearsay grounds. He also argued that considering the 2010 report again in
the 2018 proceeding would constitute inappropriately “holding the same behavior against him on
The court admitted the 2010 report. It did so based in part on a finding that the
appellant’s acknowledgment of guilt in 2010 amounted to a “concession of [the report’s]
reliability.” The judge noted that he would not “sentenc[e] the [appellant] again for the previous
violations.” He specifically mentioned that one of the allegations in the 2010 report was
3 The Commonwealth also offered the appellant’s 2014 probation violation report, but the court did not admit it because the order did not “ma[k]e clear” whether the appellant “contested” the matter or “conce[ded]” the violation.
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absconding and “that[ was] one of the violations [in the 2018] case as well.” However, he
assured the appellant that he merely “want[ed] to see whether the behavior indicated [was] the
same, better, [or] worse” and that he would consider the prior violations only “in the sense that
The court then heard argument from the parties regarding sentencing, which included
general comments about the appellant’s recidivism. After argument, the court noted the
appellant’s criminal history of almost thirty years and imposed the four years recommended by
“[t]he guidelines . . . for this case, not for the previous violations.” Clarifying the ruling, the
court revoked the twelve years remaining on the appellant’s sentence, imposed four years, and
resuspended the remaining eight years. It imposed the same terms and conditions on the
suspended sentence, except that it removed the condition of probation.
The appellant argues that the admission of the 2010 report in the 2018 proceeding was
error. He asserts that although a defendant is entitled to less protection against the admission of
testimonial hearsay at a revocation hearing than at a trial, he should nevertheless have been
allowed some degree of confrontation. He suggests that the fact that he conceded at the 2010
hearing that he had violated the conditions of his suspended sentence, standing alone, was
inadequate to establish the degree of reliability required to admit the 2010 report in the 2018
proceeding over his objection.
A. Standard of Review on Appeal
An appellate court reviews evidence relevant to an admissibility issue “in the light most
favorable to the Commonwealth, as the prevailing party, including all reasonable and legitimate
inferences that may properly be drawn from it.” Henderson v. Commonwealth, 285 Va. 318, 329
(2013). Generally, the proponent of evidence bears the burden of demonstrating its admissibility
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in the trial court. Holloman v. Commonwealth, 65 Va. App. 147, 168 (2015). On appeal, a
determination regarding the relevance and admissibility of evidence is ordinarily reviewed for an
abuse of discretion. Henderson, 285 Va. at 329. However, in evaluating the admission of an
out-of-court statement for a constitutional due process challenge, we “accept the historical
facts” and “apply a de novo review” to determine whether the record supports admitting the
challenged evidence as a matter of law. Id. It is under these legal principles that we review the
appellant’s challenge to the admissibility of the 2010 report.
B. Standard for Assessing Admissibility of Challenged Hearsay Evidence
A defendant in the guilt phase of a criminal trial is entitled to a host of constitutional
rights, including the right under the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution to be
confronted by the witnesses against him. See id. at 325; Moses v. Commonwealth, 27 Va. App.
293, 300 (1998) (recognizing that “the right to confrontation is a trial right” (quoting
Pennsylvania v. Ritchie, 480 U.S. 39, 52 (1987))). However, once a “criminal prosecution has
ended in a conviction,” the defendant “is not entitled to the ‘full panoply’ of constitutional rights
to which he was entitled at trial.” Henderson, 285 Va. at 325 (quoting Morrissey v. Brewer, 408
U.S. 471, 480 (1972)). Consequently, “application of the Confrontation Clause to . . .
post-trial . . . proceedings is inappropriate.” Moses, 27 Va. App. at 301 (sentencing); see
Henderson, 285 Va. at 325-26 (revocation).
Nevertheless, a defendant has a limited right of confrontation in criminal sentencing and
any subsequent revocation proceedings under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth
Amendment to the United States Constitution. See Henderson, 285 Va. at 325-26 (revocation);
Moses, 27 Va. App. at 301 (sentencing). The rules of evidence are not “‘strictly applied’” in
such proceedings, and hearsay is “frequently admitted.” Henderson, 285 Va. at 326 (revocation)
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(quoting United States v. Doswell, 670 F.3d 526, 530 (4th Cir. 2012)); see McCullough v.
Commonwealth, 38 Va. App. 811, 816 (2002) (sentencing).
The appellant argues that the Fourteenth Amendment due process principles governing
the admissibility of hearsay in criminal sentencing proceedings are the same as those governing
the admissibility of hearsay in all stages of revocation proceedings. Although the overarching
due process principles may be the same, the Court has previously rejected this attempt to equate
the principles applicable in criminal sentencing proceedings with those applicable in the
“assessment of wrongdoing” portion of revocation proceedings. See, e.g., Blunt v.
Commonwealth, 62 Va. App. 1, 9-11 (2013).4
The due process standards applicable in these two types of proceedings differ. To be
admissible at criminal sentencing, Virginia case law provides that hearsay evidence must be
shown to “bear some indicia of reliability.” Id. at 9 (quoting Moses, 27 Va. App. at 302). When
a court determines whether a defendant has violated the conditions of the suspension of his
sentence, by contrast, Virginia law provides heightened protection against hearsay that is
testimonial in nature, i.e., hearsay evidence prepared with the “primary purpose . . . ‘[of] use in
an investigation or prosecution.’” Mooney v. Commonwealth, 69 Va. App. 199, 202-03 (2018)
(quoting Cody v. Commonwealth, 68 Va. App. 638, 664 (2018)), aff’d on other grounds, ___ Va.
___ (June 27, 2019). A probation violation report falls into the category of testimonial hearsay.
See Cox v. Commonwealth, 65 Va. App. 506, 517-21 (2015). If hearsay offered for the purpose
of assessing wrongdoing in a revocation hearing is testimonial, the trial court must “specifically
4 We have expressly characterized the “test for admissibility” of hearsay in probation revocation proceedings enunciated in Henderson, 285 Va. at 326, as “more stringent” than the test for admissibility in “[criminal] sentencing proceedings.” Blunt, 62 Va. App. at 9-10; see id. at 10-11 (noting that although a defendant in a revocation proceeding is not entitled to all the constitutional rights available at trial, the “assessment of wrongdoing” required for revocation is similar to “the guilt phase of a trial and, thus, is more akin to a trial than a [criminal] sentencing proceeding is”).
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find good cause for not allowing confrontation.” Henderson, 285 Va. at 326 (quoting
Morrissey, 408 U.S. at 489). Good cause may be proved under either a reliability test
establishing that the information is “substantial[ly] . . . trustworth[y]” or a balancing test. Id. at
The appellant attempts to apply cases analyzing the use of hearsay in the guilt or
assessment-of-wrongdoing phase of a revocation proceeding to the penalty or sentencing phase
of that hearing. Although Henderson, 285 Va. at 326-28, clearly sets out the applicable test for
the admission of hearsay in the portion of a revocation hearing in which the trial court must
assess whether the probationer has violated the conditions of his suspended sentence, we
conclude that Henderson and related appellate decisions leave unanswered whether hearsay
offered after the assessment of wrongdoing has been made falls under the Henderson test or the
standard for criminal sentencing set out in Moses, 27 Va. App. at 301-02. Consequently, we
now consider what standard applies under such circumstances.
Manifestly, a criminal trial has two distinct components by operation of law—the guilt
phase and the sentencing phase. See Code §§ 19.2-264.3, -295.1; Ford v. Commonwealth, 48
Va. App. 262, 268-69 (2006). We observe that from a structural perspective, a revocation
hearing, like the criminal trial that preceded it, also involves two phases—evaluating whether a
violation has occurred and, if so, determining an appropriate penalty. See Code § 19.2-306(C)
(“If the court, after hearing, finds good cause to believe that the defendant has violated the terms
of suspension [of sentence], then: . . . if the court originally suspended the imposition . . . [or]
execution of the sentence, the court shall revoke the suspension . . . .” (emphasis added)).
The Court recognized this parallel in Blunt, noting that to the extent that a revocation
proceeding “requires an assessment of wrongdoing,” it resembles “the guilt phase of a trial.”
Blunt, 62 Va. App. at 11. The Supreme Court has also acknowledged this two-part structure of a
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revocation proceeding. See Johnson v. Commonwealth, 296 Va. 266, 273 (2018) (noting that
after the circuit court found the defendant in violation of the conditions of his probation, it
“heard argument on sentencing”); Turner v. Commonwealth, 278 Va. 739, 744-45 (2009) (where
the defendant admitted his wrongdoing at a revocation hearing but challenged the admission of
evidence, reversing and, with the appellant’s agreement, remanding for “resentencing” only).
The appellant concedes as much on brief, by expressly referencing “the sentencing phase of a
revocation hearing.” (Emphasis added).
Accordingly, we conclude that, like in a criminal prosecution, the standard for admitting
hearsay in a revocation proceeding differs depending on whether the evidence is offered in what
is essentially the assessment-of-wrongdoing (guilt) phase or the sentencing (penalty) phase. Cf.
Blunt, 62 Va. App. at 10-11 (discussing the standards applicable in the guilt and penalty phases
of criminal trials and comparing and contrasting them with the standard for the guilt phase in
revocation proceedings). We further hold that the standard for the admissibility of hearsay
during what is clearly the sentencing portion of a revocation hearing can be no higher than the
standard for a sentencing directly following a criminal conviction, during the penalty phase of a
Applying the same admissibility test in both the guilt and penalty phases of a revocation
proceeding would run counter to logic. Just as Virginia’s appellate courts have recognized in the
context of a criminal trial with its guilt phase and subsequent sentencing phase, a defendant’s
guilt of the violation of a condition of a suspended sentence has already been determined in the
assessment-of-wrongdoing phase, under the higher constitutional standard. A defendant is
5 We do not decide whether the standards are the same or a lesser standard applies. See, e.g., Dietz v. Commonwealth, 294 Va. 123, 134 (2017) (“[T]he doctrine of judicial restraint dictates that we decide cases ‘on the best and narrowest grounds available.’” (quoting Commonwealth v. White, 293 Va. 411, 419 (2017))).
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simply not entitled to the same level of protection during what is clearly the sentencing portion
of the revocation proceeding. Cf. Harper v. Commonwealth, 54 Va. App. 21, 22, 28-29 (2009)
(reaffirming that the Sixth Amendment right of confrontation does not apply to criminal
sentencing proceedings and that Moses governs the admissibility of hearsay at sentencing), cited
with approval in Blunt, 62 Va. App. at 8.
Not all revocation proceedings fall neatly into two distinct phases. If the record does not
reflect a clear division between the phases of the revocation proceeding, Henderson and its
progeny set out the proper standard for the admissibility of testimonial hearsay. However, if the
record makes clear that the revocation proceeding included a separate penalty phase and the
challenged evidence was considered only in that phase, the applicable standard can be no higher
than the standard for a sentencing directly following a criminal conviction, during the penalty
phase of a trial.
In the appellant’s case, the only issue on appeal concerns the admissibility of the 2010
report in what was clearly the sentencing portion of his 2018 revocation proceeding. The
appellant expressly “conced[ed his most recent] violation” of the conditions of his suspended
sentence in the 2018 proceedings, which the trial court characterized as a “stipulated plea” of
guilty. Only after the appellant “conced[ed] the violation” did the Commonwealth seek to admit
the challenged 2010 report, which it expressly offered only for purposes of “sentenc[ing].”
Therefore, the relevant portion of the appellant’s 2018 revocation hearing was the penalty phase,
and we apply the standard for admissibility of hearsay in sentencing proceedings.
C. Admissibility of Challenged Evidence Under the Applicable Standard
In the context of the facts of this case, we analyze the admissibility of the 2010 report
under the lower standard for admitting hearsay at sentencing. To be admissible in the penalty or
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sentencing phase, hearsay evidence must “bear some indicia of reliability.”6 Blunt, 62 Va. App.
at 9 (quoting Moses, 27 Va. App. at 302). In applying this standard, a trial court “may rely upon
[not only] a defendant’s criminal record” but also a variety of other categories of evidence.
Moses, 27 Va. App. at 302 (quoting Thomas v. Commonwealth, 18 Va. App. 656, 659 (1994)
(en banc)). Those other categories include “evidence of unadjudicated criminal activity” and
“hearsay contained in a probation report.” Thomas, 18 Va. App. at 659 (first citing Beaver v.
Commonwealth, 232 Va. 521, 529 (1987); then citing O’Dell v. Commonwealth, 234 Va. 672,
701 (1988)); see Blunt, 62 Va. App. at 9 (citing Moses, 27 Va. App. at 302). The prosecution is
not required to corroborate “every detail” of the hearsay to meet the necessary threshold. See
Henderson v. Commonwealth, 59 Va. App. 641, 649, 655, 657 (2012) (en banc) (quoting United
States v. Farmer, 567 F.3d 343, 348 (8th Cir. 2009)) (applying this principle under the higher
standard applicable in the assessment-of-wrongdoing phase), aff’d, 285 Va. 318 (2013).
This Court held in Wolfe v. Commonwealth, 37 Va. App. 136 (2001), that testimony
from a probation officer containing multiple layers of hearsay satisfied the
some-indicia-of-reliability test for admission at criminal sentencing. Id. at 142-43, cited with
approval in Blunt, 62 Va. App. at 11-12, 12 n.5. In that case, the probation officer obtained
information from a sheriff’s department employee who investigated a complaint against the
defendant. Id. at 139, 142-43. The employee spoke to a co-worker of the defendant, who
reported that the defendant had held a box-cutter to the co-worker’s throat. Id. The trial judge
admitted the evidence over the defendant’s objection. Id. at 139. The judge also admitted
information from the pre-sentence report and testimony from the probation officer documenting
6 We also consider by analogy cases analyzing the admissibility of hearsay in the assessment-of-wrongdoing phase because evidence meeting the higher substantially-trustworthy standard applicable in that phase necessarily also meets the lower some-indicia-of-reliability standard. See Henderson, 285 Va. at 327-28; Blunt, 62 Va. App. at 9.
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additional physical abuse and threats that the defendant made against two other people. Id. at
140, 142-43. This Court concluded that the evidence bore “the requisite ‘indicia of reliability’”
and upheld its admission. Id. at 142-43.
Similarly, in Moses, police officers “received . . . statements” from informants whom the
officers reported to be “reliable,” and they relayed those hearsay statements to a probation
officer. Blunt, 62 Va. App. at 11 (reciting the procedural history of Moses, 27 Va. App. at
297-98). The probation officer then prepared an addendum to the presentence report that
contained the hearsay statements that the informants made to the officers, and the trial judge
admitted the addendum at sentencing. Id. (citing Moses, 27 Va. App. at 297-98, 302). This
Court affirmed the admission of the addendum. Id. It did so “based on the trial court’s finding
that the information from the confidential informants was ‘reliable due to corroboration from
other sources and its particularity.’” Id. (quoting Moses, 27 Va. App. at 302).
Here, like in Wolfe and Moses, the requisite some-indicia-of-reliability standard was met,
and the 2010 probation violation report was properly admitted. While Wolfe involved direct
testimony from a probation officer, that testimony contained multiple layers of hearsay from
alleged crime victims. 37 Va. App. at 139, 142-43. Both Moses and this case involved written
probation reports rather than live testimony, but the hearsay that they contained was received
from other government officials. 27 Va. App. at 298. In Moses, those officials were police
officers who relayed an additional layer of hearsay information from confidential informants. Id.
at 297-98. In the instant case, by contrast, to the extent that Sokol’s 2010 report contained an
additional layer of hearsay, that information came not from informants but from other probation
officers who either (a) spoke to the appellant or relatives he named as contacts or (b) were
simply unable to reach the appellant using the contact information he had provided. See
Saunders v. Commonwealth, 62 Va. App. 793, 809-10 (2014) (holding based on the status of the
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declarants that a hearsay report from “one social worker, a government official, to another”
provided “evidence of reliability” and thus “possess[ed] ‘substantial guarantees of
trustworthiness’” (quoting Henderson, 285 Va. at 327)), aff’d, No. 140507 (Va. Feb. 26, 2015)
(unpublished per curiam order). With regard to the appellant’s failed drug test, he admitted
directly to the probation officer or her co-worker that he had recently used cocaine. Further,
information about the pending new misdemeanor charges was directly available to the probation
officer as part of her duties in monitoring the appellant’s compliance with the conditions of his
probation, as well as through his criminal history record, which was separately admitted at the
2010 revocation hearing. Consequently, the 2010 report challenged by the appellant bore indicia
of reliability at least equal to that of the evidence admitted in Wolfe and Moses.
Additionally, although the appellant’s 2010 acknowledgment of guilt was not necessarily
a concession that he committed all three violations listed in the 2010 report, it was corroborating
evidence that he committed at least one of them. See Henderson, 285 Va. at 327 (relying in part
on statements of a probationer “that directly or circumstantially corroborate the accusations”
(citing United States v. Lloyd, 566 F.3d 341, 345 (3d Cir. 2009); and Crawford v. Jackson, 323
F.3d 123, 130 (D.C. Cir. 2003))). He also did not present any evidence contradicting the
allegations. See id. (relying in part on “a probationer’s failure to offer contradictory evidence”
(citing Crawford, 323 F.3d at 130)). The appellant argues that he “attempt[ed] to call into
question the veracity of the information contained in the  report when debating whether it
merited introduction.” However, the key under the more stringent standard in Henderson is that
the appellant did not offer any evidence in the 2018 proceeding to dispute the contents of the
2010 report, nor did he request a continuance to permit him to do so.
Lastly, the only 2010 violation upon which the trial court expressly relied in sentencing
the appellant for the 2018 violation was his act of absconding from supervision. This was an
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event about which the probation officer had at least some personal knowledge based on her
unsuccessful efforts to reach the appellant by means of the contact information he had provided.
Also, the report reflects that the remaining evidence was collected by other probation office
employees. Consequently, the record supports the conclusion that the report bore the requisite
“some indicia of reliability” necessary to permit its admission.7
Outcome: We hold that the trial court did not err by admitting the 2010 probation violation report
into evidence in the sentencing portion of the 2018 revocation proceeding. The record, including
the facts that the appellant entered a guilty plea to the 2010 violation and that the layers of
hearsay in the 2010 report were minimal, established that the report met the
some-indicia-of-reliability test required to support the admission of hearsay in a sentencing
hearing. Consequently, we affirm the revocation of the suspension of the appellant’s sentence.