(Updated: 10:10 p.m.) Less than 24-hours before their nomination hearing, Gov. M. Jodi Rell withdrew two of the four nominations to the first full-time Board of Pardons and Paroles because the nominees were involved in the release of Joshua Komisarjevsky, one of the two parolees charged in the deadly Cheshire home invasion.
Cicero B. Booker, Jr., of Waterbury and Robert W. Neil, of Bolton, served on the board in a part-time capacity for years, but late Friday evening withdrew their names from consideration to the surprise of some at the Capitol.
It’s unclear how intimately involved either Booker or Neil were in Komisarjevsky’s 2004 and 2007 parole hearings, but parole records show Booker attended the Feb. 9, 2007 parole hearing and Neil sat in on the Sept. 22. 2004 and Dec. 17, 2004 parole hearings.
“Our office was aware that the two nominees were involved at different times in the parole hearings of the two Cheshire suspects,” Rell said in a written statement. “The two nominees support the ongoing reform process and did not wish to see the focus of that process shift away from the much needed systematic improvements. The decision to withdraw the nominations was mutual.”
Judiciary Committee Co-Chairman Michael Lawlor, D-East Haven, said nothing has happened since the legislature passed the criminal justice reforms during the January special session. “We haven’t hired a full-time Board of Pardons and Paroles. We haven’t created any new beds for sex-offenders,” he said.
He said while the Republicans and the governor have made a campaign issue out of getting tough on crime, nothing has been done.
“The tragic home invasions in Cheshire and New Britain highlighted breakdowns of certain systems within the criminal justice system. The problems involved the entire system, including information sharing and resources, and the reforms we have put in place have begun to address many of the shortcomings,” Rell said.
Senate President Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn, said when he recommended a full-time Board of Pardons and Paroles he envisioned a professional board with the right kind of expertise. He said he’s sure the two nominees were qualified in their own way and had only the best intentions, but “a clean break would be the way to go to make sure we’re moving in the right direction and help us avoid the mistakes of the past.”
Lawlor pointed out this is not the first time one of Rell’s nominations to the Judiciary Committee has had to be withdrawn. He said the appointments of Justice Peter T. Zarella to Chief Justice and Superior Court Judge John Downey to the Appellate Court also had to be withdrawn by the administration.