By ANDY THIBAULT
The Cool Justice Report
Dec. 14, 2007
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story is available for reprint courtesy of The Cool Justice Report, http://cooljustice.blogspot.com
ENFIELD - Prosecutorial discretion is an interesting concept. What does it mean when a prosecutor says incidents or activities do not rise to the level of criminal conduct?
It certainly does not mean the incidents or activities never happened.
Prosecutors, especially state prosecutors, are not immune from political influence. For example, a former chief state's attorney who convicted two cabinet members was fired for doing a good job.
All prosecutors must weigh whether they can prove specific crimes beyond a reasonable doubt. It helps if they have subpoena power, which state prosecutors do not.
Civil matters, on the other hand, require a mere preponderance of evidence, as in just enough to tip the scales over 50 percent. O.J. Simpson learned about that.
A crucial axiom held by capable corruption investigators is as follows: "If you don't look, you won't find anything."
For example, we noted Police Chief Carl Sferrazza's statement -- published Dec. 6 in the Enfield Press - regarding the encounter between former Mayor Cocoa Puffs, aka Patrick Tallarita, and Jack Mancuso at Shaw's Supermarket on Memorial Day.
"I have no knowledge of the part of the story regarding the mayor," Sferrazza told the local paper. As an observation, this statement probably was not given under oath.
Where was Sferrazza when he learned about the incident? When did he learn about the incident? Might he, for example, have been with a few political pals watching a good movie on Memorial Day? Ah, but maybe whoever he pals around with or talks to didn't bring up the Shaw's incident. That's believable, isn't it?
The Enfield police chief might still get a chance to tell his story under oath as civil or perhaps other matters proceed.
Sferrazza recently got rid of a detective lieutenant who handled internal affairs investigations. They were not known to be fans of each other.
The new detective lieutenant conducted this so-called internal affairs investigation of the boss who just promoted him. Who made the complaint? A citizen who could not trust local police certainly was not the complainant. Even if the results are correct, why would anyone with a brain wave fall for this conflict-riddled set-up?
The person moving the chess pieces around is Christopher Bromson, de facto consiglieri for Sferrrazza and Cocoa Puffs. The new town council was able to dump Bromson as town attorney - at least at some future date - but did not remove him as public safety director, a job with a pension normally performed by the town manager.
Regarding the Shaw's encounter between Cocoa Puffs and Mancuso, we have to wonder what this says about the state's ability or inclination to protect witnesses. Certainly if someone breathes the wrong way within a few hundred yards of a federal witness, there are consequences.
We also wonder who wrote the town manager's baseless statement? Do town managers as a rule perform such duties when the conduct of former officials is at issue?
Bromson, Sferrazza and Cocoa Puffs are shaking the tree - or, as the feds like to say, "Tickling The Wire" - with their dog and pony show.
Are they trying to figure out what other investigations might be going on?
From Cocoa Puffs
“Why did you have to call in the FBI – why did you have to do that?” a store clerk quoted Tallarita as shouting to Jack Mancuso, a former Democratic Town Committee chairman who has filed criminal complaints against Tallarita with state and federal law enforcement authorities.
“His face was red and he was yelling,” the clerk said. “He stormed out.”
A clerk reported hearing Tallarita spew more fighting words to Mancuso: “If you’re so big and bad, why don’t you take me on?”
After the incident, co-workers and customers asked clerks what the fuss was all about.
“People get angry [waiting] in line,” a clerk said. “But, that’s not what this was about. It was weird. He [Mancuso] had his two kids. That was bad.”
Stories On Cocoa Puffs
And State & Local "Probes"
Comment by Courant Reader:
West Hartford, CT
its hard to believe anyone in this town. there are more cover ups than a blanket factory can produce.
Probes Dismiss Man's Claims
Police, Ex-Mayor In The Clear
By LARRY SMITH
Courant Staff Writer
December 14, 2007
Separate investigations have found that allegations of wrongdoing implicating former Mayor Patrick Tallarita and the police department were either unfounded or without merit.
Town Manager Matthew Coppler released the results of the investigations Thursday. One, an internal police department investigation, was prompted by the filing Nov. 26 by former Democratic Town Chairman Jack Mancuso of a notice of intent to sue Tallarita, the town and the police department. The other investigation was done by the chief state's attorney's office in response to complaints filed by Mancuso in the spring.
"Last night my office received information that prior to the filing of the notice of intent to sue, the complainant had already received formal notice from the chief state's attorney's office that his accusations were found to be baseless and untrue," Coppler said in a statement Thursday. "In light of this development, I fully expect that the complainant and his attorney will withdraw their notice of intent to sue."
In the filing, Mancuso accused Tallarita of accosting him in front of his children at a Shaw's supermarket May 28. Mancuso said Tallarita shouted at him and made obscene gestures and threats.
The filing also alleged that Police Chief Carl Sferrazza, Enfield police officers or both "may have gone to Shaw's store and demanded they produce all recording of any security camera that might have recorded the incident."
Christopher A. Alexy, supervisory assistant state's attorney in the public integrity bureau, said in a letter to Mancuso's attorney that an investigation of the incident found "the video recording of the incident as well as statements of the cashiers closest to the parties belie the assertion that Mr. Tallarita engaged in criminal conduct. Furthermore, interviews with Shaw's employees indicate Chief Sferrazza made no attempt to obtain the video or otherwise interceded in the matter."
Neither Mancuso nor his attorney, A. Paul Spinella, could be reached for comment Thursday.
Sferrazza, who declined to comment Thursday, has previously said the allegations were untrue and that he never interceded in the matter.
The internal police investigation, conducted by Public Safety Director Christopher Bromson and Lt. Larry Curtis, reached similar conclusions as the chief state's attorney's office.
"With the information received from the Shaw's store management staff and the loss prevention division it is clear the allegation in the claim of the notice concerning the possible unlawful actions of Chief of Police Carl Sferrazza and/or members of the Enfield Police Department did not take place," Bromson wrote in his summary.
Tallarita lauded the decisions Thursday, saying he was never in doubt of the outcome of the investigation.
Mancuso said in May that he filed the complaint because he felt the Felician Sisters, a local religious order, were being treated unfairly by Tallarita in a decision by the land use board over the use of a parking lot.
Tallarita was told by his attorney, Melissa M. Donohue, that Alexy had "completed the investigation and has found that the allegations were without merit or that they fell significantly short of substantiating criminal conduct. As a result no charges will be pursued."
Tallarita said all of the accusations, which were publicly lodged against him in different forums, were part of a witch hunt to discredit him.
He had no formal acknowledgment of any investigation until August, when he was invited by the chief state's attorney office to meet with them and discuss the allegations. He said he met with them because he knew he had done nothing wrong.
"Certainly I'm happy this is concluded," Tallarita said. "Although I lost no sleep over it because I knew what the outcome would be."
Investigations clear Enfield's ex-mayor of wrongdoing
By:Alex Wood , Journal Inquirer
ENFIELD - An investigation by the chief state's attorney's office has failed to substantiate allegations of criminal conduct made against former Mayor Patrick L. Tallarita by an Internet blogger and by former Democratic Town Chairman Jack Mancuso, according to documents made public Thursday by Town Manager Matthew W. Coppler.
In addition, both the chief state's attorney's office and an internal investigation by local police have concluded that there is no truth to allegations that Police Chief Carl Sferrazza or other police officers sought to obtain a supermarket's surveillance video of a confrontation between Tallarita and Mancuso, the documents show.
For more than a year, Tallarita has been the subject of wide-ranging allegations of wrongdoing published on the Litchfield-based journalist Andrew Thibault's "Cool Justice" blog.
"I've been scrubbed clean," Tallarita said of the chief state's attorney's investigation.
"This hopefully sets the record straight with respect to who I am," the former mayor added. "I didn't do anything to deserve what was said about me."
Among the documents Coppler released was a Nov. 30 letter to Thibault from Supervisory Assistant State's Attorney Christopher A. Alexy, who said the chief state's attorney's office had completed its investigation of all the allegations Thibault had submitted to former state Public Safety Commissioner Leonard C. Boyle.
"With one exception, the evidence gathered - including witness statements, interviews with both primary and secondary sources, documentary evidence, and a video recording - indicates either that they are without merit or falls significantly short of substantiating any criminal conduct," Alexy wrote.
"The exception I referred to was the allegation concerning town refuse/public works employees, which has been addressed administratively by the town," Alexy continued. "As a result, no criminal charges will be pursued at this time."
The allegation about the town's refuse collectors evidently is that they have been paid for hours they didn't work.
Scott M. Vining, the vice president of the Enfield Taxpayers Association, told the Journal Inquirer in May that weigh slips from the Ellington transfer station show that Enfield trash trucks often stop there between 10 and 11 a.m.
He said the transfer station is the last stop on their routes and that they are paid for eight-hour shifts that are supposed to run from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Vining focused on Saturday overtime shifts in weeks with Monday holidays, specifically Feb. 17 and 24 of this year.
He said the refuse collectors weren't required to punch out Feb. 17 and that he saw only a single vehicle in the parking lot of the Public Works garage at 2 p.m. on Feb. 24.
In a telephone interview with the Journal Inquirer in May, Coppler said the supervisory staff has other work for the refuse collectors after they finish their routes - and that the employees had told him they were at work when Vining alleged they were absent.
Alexy's letter didn't detail the allegations Thibault had made in his complaint to Boyle. When asked Thursday for a copy of the complaint and for his reaction to the investigation, Thibault declined to comment.
But Tallarita said, "There was a vast array of allegations thrown to the chief state's attorney's office."
He said they included claims:
* That Planning and Zoning Commission action against a gravel parking lot at the Enfield Montessori School was part of an attempt by Tallarita to drive the school from its current location on Enfield Street and obtain its land for development.
* That Tallarita received equipment for his kitchen for free or at reduced prices from the local Bernie's appliance store as a result of a tax break the town gave to the store.
* That Tallarita was trying to give contracts to friends.
Tallarita gave statement
The former mayor, who didn't run for re-election this year, said the state's attorney's office contacted him in August and that he voluntarily gave a statement to investigators.
"My counsel told me not to do that, but I felt I should do that because I had nothing to hide," he said.
One of the allegations against Tallarita is that he threatened Mancuso at the local Shaw's Supermarket on May 28, Memorial Day. Thibault's blog has suggested that Tallarita's actions may have constituted witness tampering, a crime, because Mancuso was a witness against him in the investigation of the other allegations.
One of the documents Coppler released Thursday was a Nov. 6 letter from Alexy to Mancuso's lawyer, A. Paul Spinella of Hartford, which says, "The video recording of the incident as well as written statements of the cashiers closest to the parties belie the assertion that Mr. Tallarita engaged in criminal conduct."
Neither Mancuso nor Spinella could be reached for comment Thursday evening.
The Enfield Police Department's internal investigation of whether Sferrazza or other local police officers sought to obtain the Shaw's surveillance video of the confrontation between Tallarita and Mancuso stemmed from a notice of intent to sue the town of Enfield filed Nov. 27 by Spinella.
Christopher Bromson, the town's public safety director, conducted the investigation with the aid of Detective Lt. Larry Curtis.
They said in reports made public by Coppler that they learned from a Shaw's "loss prevention" supervisor that the only person who received a copy of the surveillance video was Janice Kmetz, the inspector in the chief state's attorney's office who handled the Enfield investigation.
Curtis said in a report that he interviewed Sferrazza about the allegation and that the chief denied that he had gone to Shaw's in an attempt to obtain the video or authorized any other Enfield police officer to do so.
The chief state's attorney's office had earlier reached the same conclusion.
Alexy said in his Nov. 6 letter to Spinella that "interviews with Shaw's employees indicate that Chief Sferrazza made no attempt to obtain the video or otherwise intercede in the matter."