Prosecutor Under Scrutiny Withdraws Bid For Reappointment

AP
June 30, 2020 - 8:02 am
Hartford Superior Court

WTIC File Photo

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTIC and AP) — A top Connecticut prosecutor on Monday withdrew her application for reappointment after being suspended and publicly criticized for taking years to issue formal reports that found police officers justified in four fatal shootings dating as far back as 2008.

The withdrawal by Hartford State's Attorney Gail Hardy came moments before the state Criminal Justice Commission was to vote on her reappointment after hearing from members of the public who both praised and criticized her during a video conference.

Hardy, however, was named later Monday to a new position in the chief's state's attorney's office, leading an effort to increase diversity in prosecutors' offices and increase outreach to the community.

Hardy, Connecticut's first Black state's attorney, completed a four-day, unpaid suspension last week over the four reports. The discipline imposed by the commission was the first suspension of a state's attorney in Connecticut.

Hardy's eight-year term is to end Tuesday, but she will stay in the position until the commission hires her successor, said state Supreme Court Justice Andrew McDonald, chairman of the commission. McDonald thanked Hardy for her service shortly before the meeting was adjourned.

Chief State's Attorney Richard Colangelo Jr. later announced that Hardy would start her new job in his office after her successor is appointed.

It was unclear what prompted Hardy to withdraw her application in a message she sent to Colangelo as the commission was in executive session debating whether she should keep her job. A message seeking comment was left for Hardy.

Hardy testified for nearly four hours Friday and addressed the commission again Monday.

“I’ve served as a public servant for the state of Connecticut for 36 years,” she said. "And I’ve served proudly, I’ve served with integrity and I’ve served in a way that’s fair and just to all persons. It’s just unfortunate that after being punished for the delay in those reports that this is something that is going to tarnish my entire career.”

The state chapters of the NAACP and American Civil Liberties Union opposed Hardy’s reappointment, while pastors, prosecutors in Hardy's office and other Hartford-area residents said she deserved another term. More people spoke in support of Hardy than those opposed.

Scot Esdaile, president of the state NAACP, told the commission he and other members of the group were upset that Hardy has not charged police officers in fatal shootings of Black men.

“We are demanding a change,” Esdaile said. “The NAACP says we are done dying. Officers in Minneapolis are being arrested. Officers in Atlanta are being arrested. In Texas they’re being arrested. But not in Hartford, Connecticut.”

But others who spoke during Monday's meeting said Hardy was very active in the community and was an inspiration to African Americans.

“As the first and only African American to serve as a state’s attorney in Connecticut, Attorney Hardy has become the gold standard for which we all strive to become,” said Sean Mosley, an English teacher and recent graduate of the University of Connecticut School of Law. "She’s principled, dignified, distinguished and always willing to give back to the community.”

The four reports in question involved the the police shooting deaths of Ernesto Morales in Hartford on July 11, 2012; Edmanuel Reyes in Manchester on May 19, 2011; Taurean Wilson in East Hartford on Jan. 1, 2009; and Joseph Bak in Hartford on March 3, 2008.

Hardy, who became Hartford state’s attorney in 2007 after serving as a prosecutor for 11 years in Waterbury, finally released the reports in December, two months after The Hartford Courant first reported they had not been completed. All the officers were found to be justified in the killings.

Hardy said the four investigations were completed in a timely fashion, as were her decisions that all the officers were justified, but she just had not completed the formal reports.

Asked why the reports took so long, Hardy has said her office — which prosecutes crimes committed in Hartford and 18 surrounding towns — is one of the busiest in the state, but she said that was not an excuse. She told the commission such delays would not happen again and she would delegate more duties to her subordinates to free up time to complete such reports.

Connecticut has 13 state’s attorneys who are the top law enforcement officials in their judicial districts.