THE COURT OF APPEALS OF VIRGINIA
E. POWELL, JUSTICE
Stanley James Pijor ("Pijor") was found guilty of
perjury, in violation of Code § 18.2-434, in the Circuit
Court of Fairfax County ("trial court"). The
perjury conviction stemmed from testimony Pijor gave during a
larceny trial in which he was acquitted. On appeal, Pijor
argues that the Commonwealth was collaterally estopped from
indicting him for perjury due to his previous acquittal and
that the evidence was insufficient to prove he committed
February 4, 2014, Pijor was tried for larceny of an animal
and unlawfully entering another's property. The charges
arose from the disappearance of a dog, Ben, that belonged to
Pijor's ex-girlfriend, Kristy Gooch ("Kristy").
The Commonwealth's theory during the larceny trial was
that Pijor took Ben after entering the home where Kristy and
her parents resided, uninvited. Patti Gooch
("Patti"), Kristy's mother, testified she was
home alone with Ben on the morning of September 6, 2013, when
Pijor began ringing the front doorbell, calling out for
Kristy or Patti to speak with him, and calling the house
telephone. Patti did not respond to Pijor because she was
scared and, instead, called the police from her upstairs
bedroom while Ben barked at the front door. After Pijor fell
silent, Patti opened her bedroom door and found Pijor with
Ben beside him. Patti told Pijor to leave and he responded he
was trying to check on Kristy. As Pijor proceeded back
downstairs, Patti retreated to her bedroom and closed the
door. Patti opened the door "seconds" later after
she realized Ben was not with her and ran downstairs, where
she did not see Pijor or Ben. Patti proceeded outside but saw
no sign of Pijor or Ben.
larceny trial, Kristy testified she and Pijor had a troubled
relationship that she had been trying to end for several
years and that Pijor had previously threatened to take away
everything she cared about if she ended their relationship.
Kristy explained that, approximately two days before
Ben's disappearance, she had stopped responding to
Pijor's attempts to contact her. Kristy claimed that Ben
was very well behaved and never ran away despite being
unrestrained frequently. Ben also wore a collar and tags that
bore Kristy's name, telephone number, and home address.
testified in his own defense and acknowledged using a key he
knew was hidden under a rock to let himself into the
Goochs' home. Pijor explained he was concerned about
Kristy's welfare and that Ben followed him as he left the
house after his encounter with Patti. Once outside, Ben tried
to follow Pijor, and Pijor commanded Ben to stay in the
Goochs' backyard, which he did. Pijor claimed that this
was the last time he saw Ben. When asked, "At any point
in time have you received information on where Ben might
be?" Pijor responded, "No, I haven't".
When asked, "[H]ave you seen the dog since September the
6th?" Pijor said, "No". Pijor claimed Ben
would chase people, animals, and dogs unless told not to and
that he had run away at least once. Pijor noted he tried to
find Ben and denied threatening Kristy.
father, David Pijor ("Pijor, Sr."), testified that
Pijor lived with him "for periods of time" after
Ben's disappearance but that he had not seen the dog.
Pijor, Sr. recounted that his son left on a trip to Ocean
City, Maryland the day Ben disappeared and that Pijor had
tried to find Ben. The jury acquitted Pijor of both charges.
it was discovered Pijor had possession of Ben, and he was
charged with perjury stemming from his trial testimony that
he had no information regarding Ben's whereabouts after
September 6, 2013 and that he had not seen the dog since that
date. Pijor moved to dismiss this charge and
argued that principles of collateral estoppel prevented the
Commonwealth from proving he perjured himself because it
would require relitigating whether he stole Ben. The trial
court disagreed and concluded that, although the Commonwealth
could not present evidence Pijor stole Ben, it could prove
that he lied about knowing where Ben was after the dog went
the day Ben disappeared, Kristy did not see either him or
Pijor, except for seeing Pijor at the larceny trial. At
Pijor's perjury trial, Kristy testified regarding a
series of events that began five days after the larceny
trial. On February 9, 2014, five days after Pijor's
acquittal in the larceny trial, she saw a man in a hooded
sweatshirt (i.e., a "hoodie") with the hood pulled
up over his head,  walking a dog resembling Ben near her
home. The dog carried an orange Frisbee in its mouth. On
March 1, 2014, Kristy saw the man again, wearing what
appeared to be the same hoodie with the hood pulled up over
his head and walking the same dog carrying the same orange
Frisbee near her home. Later that evening, an orange Frisbee
struck the Goochs' front door.
March 8, 2014, Kristy saw the man in a hoodie with the hood
pulled up over his head and walking with a dog carrying the
orange Frisbee again while she was driving with her
boyfriend, Tam Nguyen. Nguyen pulled over, and Kristy
identified the pair as Pijor and Ben. Kristy testified that
when she called Ben's name, "the dog immediately
dropped the Frisbee and tried to pull towards me."
Nguyen tried to follow Pijor but he ran with Ben in tow.
Nguyen testified and confirmed he and Kristy saw Pijor
walking Ben on March 8.
Jacquelynn Smith testified she began tracking Pijor's
movements by GPS on March 10, 2014 due to allegations that he
was stalking Kristy. She arrested Pijor on April 29, 2014,
with Ben in his car. Pijor told Detective Smith that he had
found the dog but would not tell her when he found Ben. In
the back seat of Pijor's car was a dog bowl, dog food, a
leash, and a blanket covered in dog hair.
Sr. testified that Pijor lived with him between September 6,
2013 and February 4, 2014 and that he saw his son almost
every day during that period. Pijor, Sr.'s house was four
to six miles from where Kristy and Nguyen saw Pijor and Ben
on March 8, 2014. Pijor Sr. denied seeing Pijor with Ben or
noticing any evidence that Pijor had Ben. Specifically,
Pijor, Sr. testified that he saw the interior of Pijor's
car regularly and that he saw no indication Pijor was
transporting Ben in the vehicle. Pijor, Sr. acknowledged that
Pijor occasionally visited a friend in Ocean City. Pijor
offered into evidence a portion of the transcript from his
first trial, which recounted his explanation of how he looked
for Ben after he went missing.
trial court found Pijor guilty of perjury. Pijor appealed his
conviction to the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals
denied Pijor's appeal, concluding in an unpublished
opinion that collateral estoppel did not bar his prosecution
and that the evidence supported his conviction. Pijor v.
Commonwealth, Record No. 2065-15-4, slip op. at 2 (June
29, 2016). The Court of Appeals further held that the
circumstantial evidence was competent and not inherently
incredible to prove that Pijor was guilty of perjury.
Id. at 3-5. This appeal followed.
estoppel is a doctrine of fact preclusion that is
"embodied in" the Fifth Amendment "protection
against double jeopardy." Simon v.
Commonwealth, 220 Va. 412, 415, 258 S.E.2d 567, 569
(1979). "[W]hen an issue of ultimate fact has once been
determined by a valid and final judgment, that issue cannot
again be litigated between the same parties in any future
lawsuit." Ashe v. Swenson, 397 U.S. 436, 443
However, before the doctrine of collateral estoppel may be
applied, four requirements must be met: (1) the parties to
the two proceedings must be the same; (2) the factual issue
sought to be litigated must have been actually litigated in
the prior proceeding; (3) the factual issue must have been
essential to the judgment rendered in the prior proceeding;
and (4) the prior proceeding must have ...