Unless the victim was also arrested. You can’t make this shit up. And if it were April 1st today, I might laugh it off as a clever joke. But it’s not and apparently neither is this.
Here’s the lowdown, from the two meager paywall inhibited articles that I could find. State Trooper from Salisbury, CT (where watching paint dry is exciting) Mark Lauretano apparently submitted an arrest warrant for a man who got into a bar fight with someone else. The “victim” of the fight (meaning the guy who got beaten up worse), was obviously not arrested, as these things go. Judge Klatt, upon reviewing the information in the warrant declined to sign it, apparently until the “victim” was also arrested.
Judge Klatt, a former prosecutor from
Death Valley Waterbury, CT, should have known better. You simply do not refuse the State Police what they want. So instead of, I don’t know, reviewing the information again to see if maybe the Judge had a point, Lauretano does the logical thing and is now seeking an arrest warrant for the Judge herself*.
The fact that Judge Klatt is currently holding onto a valid arrest warrant for the accused and refusing to sign it until and unless she receives an arrest warrant for the victim is coercion and a violation of criminal law.
Actually, I prefer to call it “not engaging in selective prosecution”.
Assuming, of course, that the reason the judge didn’t sign the arrest warrant was because she personally knows the defendant-elect, this highlights a problem that we in the defense field have long observed: that arrests in these and domestic violence and violation of protective order cases are always one-sided. Man and girlfriend get into fight and it’s always only the man who’s arrested. There’s a running joke that the way to “win” a fight is to get injured just slightly more than the other guy. They’ll never arrest you if you come out looking like the worse of the two. You see it in self-defense cases, too.
But that’s neither hither nor thither. Let’s take a look at what the good Trooper accuses the judge of doing: coercion and “hindering a police investigation”.
Coercion, CGS 53a-192, states:
(a) A person is guilty of coercion when he compels or induces another person to engage in conduct which such other person has a legal right to abstain from engaging in, or to abstain from engaging in conduct in which such other person has a legal right to engage, by means of instilling in such other person a fear that, if the demand is not complied with, the actor or another will: (1) Commit any criminal offense; or (2) accuse any person of a criminal offense; or (3) expose any secret tending to subject any person to hatred, contempt or ridicule, or to impair any person’s credit or business repute; or (4) take or withhold action as an official, or cause an official to take or withhold action.
(b) It shall be an affirmative defense to prosecution based on subdivision (2), (3) or (4) of subsection (a) of this section that the actor believed the accusation or secret to be true or the proposed official action justified and that his purpose was limited to compelling the other person to behave in a way reasonably related to the circumstances which were the subject of the accusation, exposure or proposed official action, as by desisting from further misbehavior or making good a wrong done.
(c) Coercion is a class A misdemeanor except, if the threat is to commit a felony, coercion is a class D felony.
Ugh. Best I can tell, Lauretano feels like Judge Klatt is compelling him, or inducing him, to abstain from engaging in conduct that he has a legal right to engage in (arresting the defendant-elect). But there also has to be a showing that he’s afraid that if he does not arrest the “victim”, he will himself be the victim of a crime, be accused of a crime, his secrets will be exposed or the judge will “take or withhold action as an official”, whatever the hell that means.
[Update: As astutely pointed out by Gamso in the comments below, the irony is that Lauretano's actions more closely fit the definition of coercion than the judge's. Compelling the judge? Check. Conduct that the judge has a legal right to abstain from engaging? Check. Instilling in the judge the fear that if the demand is not complied with he will accuse her of committing a crime? Check. Subsection (b) might apply to him, but as we all know, an affirmative defense is not a bar to prosecution. Methinks the trooper may not want to play this game much longer.]
So if not coercion, then what else? “Hindering a police investigation” isn’t a crime. There’s no such thing in CT. There’s “Hindering prosecution” and “interfering with the police”. I’m going to assume it’s the latter. CGS 53a-167a states:
(a) A person is guilty of interfering with an officer when such person obstructs, resists, hinders or endangers any peace officer, special policeman appointed under section 29-18b, Department of Motor Vehicles inspector appointed under section 14-8 and certified pursuant to section 7-294d, or firefighter in the performance of such peace officer’s, special policeman’s or firefighter’s duties.
(b) Interfering with an officer is a class A misdemeanor.
Interfering with an officer can – and does – mean many things in Connecticut. A Judge acting in furtherance of her duties cannot be one of them. If that were to be the case, then any and all warrants must be signed by judges, otherwise they’d all be interfering with officers.
I’m glad that Salisbury has nothing else going on that a State Trooper wastes his time applying for an arrest warrant for a judge for 2 misdemeanors and also makes a statement to the press.
I wonder what’ll happen if another superior court judge refuses to sign this warrant for Judge Klatt’s arrest. Ad Infinitum.
[*Obviously, this is all based on the limited information we have so far. If it turns out that the judge refused to sign the warrant for reasons that are less than kosher, then we have a different story on our hands.]