Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Morano Withdraws

Journal Inquirer

Morano withdraws from consideration for top prosecutor's post
By Journal Inquirer staff and the Associated Press

Days after a blistering letter from 11 of 13 state's attorneys recommended Chief State's Attorney Christopher L. Morano lose his appointment as the state's top prosecutor, Morano withdrew his application for the post.
In a news release issued Monday evening, Morano said the "allegations" made by the state's attorneys - including the claim that he has a "divide-and-conquer" style of management - were "totally unfounded" and a distraction.

"I have no doubt that I could show these allegations to be totally unfounded, either before the Criminal Justice Commission or in another appropriate forum," Morano said. "To do so, however, would detract from the business of the division."

Morano's decision means that the $139,697-per-year job will go to one of two veteran prosecutors or to a Hartford defense lawyer.

The Criminal Justice Commission - a group of six appointees, led by Supreme Court Justice Richard N. Palmer - will meet Friday to interview candidates and may make a selection then.

"Whoever the commission selects, that person will have my complete support and assistance in any transition process," Morano said.

While Morano didn't endorse any of the remaining candidates, the prosecutors in their letter to the commission endorsed New London State's Attorney Kevin Kane. Kane, 63, is the heavy favorite among prosecutors.

"He is the consummate professional and a real gentleman," one longtime Hartford prosecutor said.

The other candidates are Paul Murray - one of Morano's top deputies - and Hartford defense lawyer Michael Georgetti.

"I'm sure it was hard for him to do and I'm sorry to see him leave office under these circumstances," Murray said. "I'm sure he always did what he thought was in the best interest of the division."

Morano presided over nearly four busy years in law enforcement but was often overshadowed by federal prosecutors, who wield more authority and are credited with more aggressively tackling public corruption and drug crimes.

Last week, while Morano was on vacation, 11 of Connecticut's 13 state's attorneys signed a letter urging the Criminal Justice Commission not to reappoint him.

The prosecutors accused Morano of overstepping his constitutional authority by prosecuting cases that could be prosecuted locally and of being "more interested in advancing his own career" than in the well-being of the division.

But in his statement, Morano insisted that the division "is stronger today than at any time in its history," citing "new initiatives" on curbing urban violence and domestic violence.

What Morano will do next - and when he'll begin doing it - wasn't immediately clear.

"I don't have a job," he said. "I guess I've got to go look for a job."

Morano was appointed in 2002 to fill the remaining three and a half years of the term of John M. Bailey, who left office because of health problems. Bailey died in 2003.

The chief state's attorney doesn't typically try cases, but often is the face of the state's criminal justice system. The job is largely about setting statewide priorities and pressing lawmakers to fund programs.

His tenure has, however, included some high-profile cases.

He put Gov. John G. Rowland before a grand jury investigating Connecticut's energy deal with Enron, oversaw serial killer Michael Ross' execution, investigated Gov. M. Jodi Rell's staff for campaign violations, brought a bid-rigging case against five Department of Transportation employees, and arrested the chief of staff for Connecticut's top police official.

But Morano never had the strong support of the state's attorneys and, after Rowland resigned amid a corruption scandal in 2004, did not enjoy the outspoken backing of the governor's office. Instead of rubber-stamping Morano's reappointment, the Criminal Justice Commission voted to open the job to outside applicants.

Morano gained statewide attention in 1994 as supervisor of the state's gang unit. He was appointed a deputy chief state's attorney in 1997 and helped establish a cold case squad and a state witness protection program.

As chief state's attorney, he tried unsuccessfully to get the legislature to give prosecutors subpoena power, an authority that Connecticut investigators say is crucial to solving organized crime, public corruption and gang cases. Bailey had also brought that proposal before lawmakers several times over the years.

No comments: