Copyright © 2015 Albuquerque Journal
Possessing a DVD of the award-winning movie “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” was reason enough to get a convicted rapist thrown back into prison for violating the terms of his probation, the state Court of Appeals has ruled.
The court upheld a decision by state District Judge Angela Jewell of Albuquerque to revoke the probation of Robert Dinapoli for possessing DVDs of the American and Swedish versions of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and a third R-rated movie. He was prohibited from having “sexually oriented” material.
Known as the Lost Puppy Rapist, Dinapoli pleaded guilty but mentally ill in 1994 and was sentenced to 30 years in prison on charges of sexually assaulting and kidnapping two women.
He pretended to be looking for his lost dog when knocking on the doors of his intended victims.
Dinapoli, 47, was released on parole and on five years’ probation in 2011. Jewell, serving as a pro tempore judge hearing probation violations, sent him back to prison in 2012 to serve the five years because of the DVDs. The Appeals Court ruled Dinapoli should be credited with the time he served on probation before being incarcerated again.
Dinapoli was released from prison in December 2011 to live at his mother’s house because, the Court of Appeals noted, he suffers from a degenerative neurological disorder.
Upon his release in 2011, Dinapoli signed a sex-offender contract that prohibited him from possessing “sexually oriented” material or using electronic devices to access sexually stimulating material, pornography, adult websites and social networking sites, according to court records.
The contract says: “I will not purchase, possess or subscribe to any sexually oriented or sexually stimulating material. This includes, but is not limited to: Sexual devices, books, magazines, video/audio tapes, pictures, DVDs, CD ROMs, and Internet websites.”
He also agreed to attend a sex-offender treatment program but was asked to leave after being disruptive.
In February 2012, Dinapoli was charged with violating his probation when he accessed a website depicting rapists and rape victims. Dinapoli told Judge Jewell that he was “trying to find out what kind of rapist he was,” according to court records.
Jewell allowed Dinapoli to continue his probation with additional restrictions, such as not accessing the Internet with his cellphone.
In July 2012, during a home visit, probation officers found three DVDs in his bedroom: “I Spit on Your Grave” (2010), “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” (2009, Swedish) and “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” (2011, U.S.).
The American version of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” starring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara, was nominated for five Academy Awards and won one for best film editing.
All three films contained what probation officers said were graphic depictions of rape and, although R-rated, had warnings on the DVD covers that the movies contained “brutal, violent content, including rape and torture, strong sexuality, (and) graphic nudity”
Dinapoli’s attorney argued in a court hearing in September that the DVDs were R-rated and could be purchased at any video store.
Dinapoli testified that he did not derive sexual satisfaction from the movies and assumed that the sex-offender contract prohibitions applied only to pornography.
According to court records, Dinapoli said he wasn’t “cautioned not to watch any scenes in a mainstream movie.”
He also testified at the September hearing that he watched the movies because of the revenge the portrayed victims were able to impose upon their rapists.
The Appeals Court found that Dinapoli violated the terms of his probation that prohibited him from possessing “sexually oriented” material and that a reasonable person would conclude the movies were “sexually oriented.”
The court ruled that the fact that the movies were “mainstream movies that anybody can buy at any video store,” as Dinapoli contended, didn’t matter and that possessing them still violated terms of his probation.
Judge James J. Wechsler wrote the unanimous opinion, joined by Judges Jonathan B. Sutin and M. Monica Zamora.
Dinapoli could have gotten out of prison in 2008, but he refused to participate in a program at the Sex Offender Unit at the New Mexico Behavioral Health Institute in Las Vegas, N.M..
Two days after arriving at the program, according to court records, Dinapoli “informed staff members that treatment was of no value to him and [that he] wished to be returned to prison where he did not have to put up with anyone asking questions about his past behavior.”
The probation officer reported that Dinapoli told him: “I don’t belong out here. I raped two women, and I need to go back to prison. I have food and shelter over there and just can’t make it out here. I need to go back to prison.”
Dinapoli was recommitted to the Department of Corrections.