HARTFORD, CT – Three longtime prosecutors and an associate attorney for the Office of the Attorney General have been named candidates for the position of Connecticut’s next Chief State’s Attorney.
The four, Richard Colangelo, State’s Attorney for the Judicial District of Stamford/Norwalk, Kevin Lawlor, the former State’s Attorney for the Judicial District of Ansonia/Milford who is now a Deputy Chief State’s Attorney, Erik Lohr, an associate attorney for Legal Counsel in the Office of the Attorney General and Maureen Platt, the State’s Attorney for the Judicial District of Waterbury, will be publicly interviewed for the job by the state’s Criminal Justice Commission on Jan. 30, according to the Division of Criminal Justice.
The commission chaired by Connecticut Supreme Court Justice Andrew J. McDonald is expected to make its decision on who will be chosen as the state’s next top prosecutor later that same day.
SB 880, a law on prosecutorial transparency which passed last year requires the commission to hold the interviews of the top candidates for the job in public session, McDonald said.
In a first-of-its-kind move, the commission held a public forum in October seeking public input on the qualities state residents, including police, advocates, legislators and citizens wanted in the next Chief State’s Attorney.
“The commission is fully supportive of the legislation and went above and beyond in that we held a public forum when we solicited comment on what people want in a Chief State’s Attorney,” McDonald said. “We also had additional comments and input that were provided and they all have been put on the Division’s website so the public can see them.”
The commission made up of a judge and several attorneys, is responsible for the appointment of all state prosecutors. McDonald has called their choice for Chief State’s Attorney the most important appointment that the commission will ever make.
They will make their decision against the backdrop of increased calls for transparency and accountability for police and prosecutors, McDonald agreed.
“The role of prosecutors has evolved, not only in Connecticut but around the country,” McDonald said. Prosecutors have “extraordinary discretion and authority in their job function,” McDonald said. They should be able to explain their decisions, he added.
“If you’re not proud of the decisions you make, then maybe you shouldn’t make them,” he was told by his mother, Anne McDonald, a former legislator representing Stamford, said.
“There are times when prosecutors can share limited information because of a pending investigation,” McDonald said. “But when information is needlessly withheld it tends to sow doubts and misapprehension from the public and victims of crime.”
Colangelo, who has served in his present role since July 2015, recently gained statewide and national notoriety during the months-long investigation into the disappearance of New Canaan resident Jennifer Dulos, a mother of five embroiled in a bitter two year-divorce.
Colangelo twice arrested her estranged husband Fotis Dulos on tampering with evidence charges in connection with the disappearance. Fotis Dulos was charged with murder, felony murder and first-degree kidnapping in the disappearance and death of his wife last week. The body of Jennifer Dulos has not been found despite an intense nearly eight-month investigation by Colangelo’s office, state police and New Canaan police.
Kevin Lawlor served as the State’s Attorney for the Judicial District of Ansonia/Milford for 12 years before he was appointed as a Deputy Chief State’s Attorney for Operations in July 2018. During his tenure as a prosecutor, Lawlor oversaw the trial of an officer charged with two counts of manslaughter and convicted on lesser charges and investigated a U.S. Marshal who was arrested on first-degree assault charges.
Platt has been the State’s Attorney for the Judicial District of Waterbury since 2011. She led the controversial deadly use of force investigation into a Bridgeport officer who shot and killed a 15-year-old in a stolen car in May 2017.
Platt exonerated the officer. But she told the Connecticut American Civil Liberties Union who provided questionnaires to each candidate that she would support legislation that would make killings by police justified only if it was clear that the officer did not create the situation in which the use of deadly force was necessary. She was the only candidate of the four to favor such legislation, according to the responses given to the ACLU.
Lohr has been with the Attorney General’s Office since January 2019. He started his career as a prosecutor in the Office of the Chief State’s Attorney.
All four candidates told the ACLU they supported new legislation passed last year that increased police and prosecutorial transparency and accountability. But Platt, Lohr and Colangelo supported requiring State’s Attorneys to quarterly update the commission on use of force investigations and allow for public comment during the updates. Lawlor said he favored the process in the place and his office was working to revise guidelines to require state’s attorneys to report to the Office of the Chief State’s Attorney rather than the commission or the public.
The interviews for the four candidates who each applied and were chosen to move forward in the process will be held publicly as well at the Legislative Office Building..
The state’s longtime Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane retired at the end of November following an investigation into Hartford State’s Attorney Gail Hardy who failed to complete four deadly use of force investigations tied to citizen deaths that in some cases occurred more than a decade ago.
Kane was slated to retire as of Nov. 1 but was asked by McDonald to spend an extra month in the role to review Hardy’s role in the backlog.
Kane was the longest serving Chief State’s Attorney since the position was created. In his final year in the role Kane helped broker a deal with legislators to make the investigations into police deadly use of force incidents more transparent by requiring the release of dash and body camera footage within 96 hours of an incident that could involve officer discipline.
The drive to change law came after public protests following the shooting of a woman by a Hamden and a Yale University officer in New Haven and the fatal shooting of a man by a Wethersfield officer during a one-week span in April.
Kane also was instrumental in the passage of a law that will require prosecutors to provide information on arrest demographics annually to legislators and the public.
Connecticut’s Chief State’s Attorney oversees legislative initiatives and the administrative function of the state’s Division of Criminal Justice which employs the state’s prosecutors, including the 13 State’s Attorneys handling 13 judicial districts, where the most serious criminal cases are heard, and investigators for specialized units within the Office of the Chief State’s Attorney.