HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - A top prosecutor is being suspended over yearslong delays on investigations into four fatal shootings by police officers, a Connecticut justice panel decided Thursday in a unanimous and apparently unprecedented move.
It was only in December that Hartford State’s Attorney Gail Hardy announced she had determined all four shootings, in cases dating as far back as 2008, were justified, following reports by The Hartford Courant that the investigations had not been completed.
Hardy, Connecticut’s first African American state’s attorney, agreed Wednesday to the suspension of four days without pay, said State Supreme Court Justice Andrew McDonald, chairman of the state Criminal Justice Commission - the first known suspension of a state’s attorney.
“This is a difficult day for all of us because we know that State’s Attorney Hardy has been serving the state of Connecticut for a long period of time and has done so with great dedication on her part,” McDonald said. “That does not address, however, the serious dereliction in duty for her inexcusable delay in submitting these reports.”
Messages seeking comment were left for Hardy on Thursday.
The four reports in question involved the the 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’s eight-year term expires at the end of this month, and the commission will start deciding next week whether to reappoint her.
The state NAACP, the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut and two Hartford pastors wrote a letter to the commission that urged its members to discipline Hardy and deny her reappointment.
“Throughout her two terms, State’s Attorney Hardy has engaged in willful negligence of a portion of her duties that are important to our community,” the letter said. “State’s Attorney Hardy … has not been held to account for her poor management of the Hartford Judicial District.”
They also accused Hardy of failing to apply state laws on hate crimes when people were victims of race-based violence.
Claudine Fox, campaign manager for the state ACLU, said the four-day suspension was not long enough.
McDonald said he knew the length of the suspension would be criticized variously as too lenient or too harsh.
“The work of the judicial district still has to occur, and it does in fact need a leader, and that’s why the suspension is only four days,” he said.
Hardy, a former probation officer and public defender, was a state prosecutor in Waterbury for 11 years before being appointed state’s attorney for the Hartford district in 2007. The district includes the capital city and 18 nearby towns.
She apologized last year for the long delays in completing the reports.
“I again wish to extend my condolences to the families of the deceased for the loss of their loved ones and my deepest apologies for the time that it has taken to complete these reports,” Hardy said. “I am also publicly committing myself to the timely completion of all such investigations in the future.”
Hardy also apologized to police officers involved in the cases who had to wait for the formal reports.
The four shootings angered and upset relatives of the four men killed by police but did not lead to large protests.
Bak, 23, of West Hartford, was shot by two state troopers in 2008 when he charged at them with a knife, police said. The shooting in Hartford came after authorities said Bak robbed a bank and led police on a car chase.
Wilson, 26, of Hartford, was shot by police responding to a domestic violence call in East Hartford in 2009. Authorities say he stabbed a police dog and tried to attack an officer when police opened fire. The dog and an injured officer survived.
Reyes, 33, was shot by a police sharpshooter after holding his family hostage and shooting an officer in Manchester in 2011. The officer survived.
Morales, 30, of Hartford, was shot by Hartford police in 2012 when he rammed a stolen SUV into a police cruiser and drove at officers. The SUV hit an apartment building where no one was hurt.
Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC.