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New Chief State’s Attorney talks Dulos case and hot button topics

ROCKY HILL — There’s a new Chief State’s Attorney in town. Richard Colangelo was appointed on January 30 by the Criminal Justice Commission. Governor Lamo...
Richard Colangelo

ROCKY HILL — There’s a new Chief State’s Attorney in town. Richard Colangelo was appointed on January 30 by the Criminal Justice Commission.

Governor Lamont says he’s looking forward to working with him. He takes over for Kevin Kane who retired. Colangelo is now tasked with overseeing all 13 state’s attorneys.

Colangelo told FOX61, over the next several weeks, he plans to visit all the state’s attorneys to see what they need and how they can better allocate resources. Colangelo sat down with FOX61 and delivered direct and pointed answers on a variety of hot button topics.

Matt Caron:

Tell us about you. Who is Richard Colangelo and what is your brand of justice?

Richard Colangelo:

“The way that I’ve done my job as a prosecutor throughout the years is just to make sure I do the right thing.”

M:

When you were promoted to this post, you were leading the prosecution on the one of the most high profile cases Connecticut has ever seen. The Dulos murder case. How will your involvement in the case change and how will a new lead prosecutor be selected?

R:

“Right now I’m still acting states attorney in Stamford so I guess I’m still leading the charge there. I don’t think I’ll be able to continue that. Once the new states attorney is appointed I will have a conversation with whoever that person is to talk about the case. There are members of the office who are very familiar with the case just like I was.”

M:

In your opinion, can we have a murder trial without a physical victim and without a suspect?

R:

“The case is scheduled for that motion on Friday. Come to court on Friday and you’ll see what happens.”

*This court hearing has been rescheduled for next week. 

M:

What was going through your mind when you found out that Fotis Dulos poisoned himself with carbon monoxide?

R:

“I was sitting in my office waiting for him to come to court with one of my attorneys and it was sad. It really was.”

M:

How difficult has it been for you to have been working on this case?

R:

“It’s amazing to me the following that case got. The state police. The western district major crime guys are tremendous. There wasn’t a day since Jennifer went missing that I hadn’t talked to them and the New Canaan Police who were involved with them. Every step of the way they kept me informed. There were so many facets to that investigation it was incredible as you saw in the warrant.”

M:

Your predecessor had to delay his retirement to deal with a backlog of police use of deadly force cases, some of which dated back to 2008. How will you work to make sure these are investigated in an independent and timely manner?

R:

“The policy now is once the completed report gets to us, and all the information is done from all the sources the state’s attorney has 120 days to get their report done, and that’s something that I will make sure we do.”

M:

In cases of police involved shootings, how specifically do you plan to balance transparency for a public demanding answers while at the same time protecting the integrity of the investigation?

R:

“Transparency is where we are moving the system now and it’s very important. But again you were right, balancing that with making sure that we have the ability to investigate and don’t get information out before we talk to all of the witnesses.”

M:

We know that Governor Lamont will likely push this session to legalize marijuana. But there is no test to determine if someone is driving high. Do you support legalization? Do you think law enforcement is ready?

R:

“We need to make sure that we have a test for that. That is something I would make sure we are pushing the legislature on to make sure that it is covered in any legalization bill.”

M:

Would you push to retroactively expunge the records of low-level marijuana offenders?

R:

“That is going to be difficult to do going backwards because I know a lot of prosecutors are like me and that is not one of the things that was on our radar when we plead somebody out…to make sure that it was on or in the record to say this was less than an ounce, so that 30 years from now it could be expunged.”

M:

Federal policies are causing many in the immigrant community to live in fear of deportation from ICE. Congress has introduced legislation that threatens to sue sanctuary cities. Will you be instructing your state’s attorneys to cooperate or not cooperate with federal immigration detainers?

R:

“Realistically we have to look at if there is a judicial order. A warrant signed by a judge then that is when we are going to cooperate.”

M:

Let’s talk about the opioid crisis. According to DPH there are about 3 drug overdose deaths every day here in CT. Between 2014 and 2017 the number of deaths has doubled. Do you see this as a criminal and judicial issue or as a public health and addition issue?

R:

“Honestly it’s both…Let’s make sure that we are taking case of the people who need the treatment, but the people who are out there breaking the law and selling those narcotics, we should be looking to prosecute.”

M:

Connecticut repealed the death penalty in 2012. Do you believe there is a crime so egregious that could warrant the reinstatement of capital punishment?

R:

“Can I come up with some? Yes, absolutely. But honestly in my situation right now my belief doesn’t matter. It’s the legislature and their prerogative to make those changes.”

M:

Due to legislation passed last session. CT will become the first state in the country to collect prosecutorial data and study it. Do you believe on its face, that the Connecticut justice system has a racial bias?

R:

“I haven’t seen it I have to be honest with you. When I am prosecuting cases I never look at the race. I never look at who the person is. I look at the conduct and I look at the charges that they are charged with.”

M:

Do you believe there is a trust gap between the judicial system and the public and if so, how will you bridge it?

R:

“I want to know what we are doing right, what we are doing wrong and what we could be doing better. There is always room for improvement and for that trust gap, yeah. There are a lot of members of society who don’t trust the police and they look at us as a continuation of the police.”

M:

What reforms do you believe we need to make to the juvenile justice system?

R:

“Closing the juvenile detention center. Now there is a gap there. What do we do with them? There is a population of kids who commit crimes who need to be punished. That being said there is another population of kids who commit crimes and it doesn’t mean the prosecutor doesn’t automatically have to prosecute that kid as an adult.”

M:

We live in a digital world. But many people say when it comes to law enforcement and the courts, we still see so much paperwork and a technological lag. How will you work to bring criminal justice into the 21st century?

R:

“Looking at access to court. Is there a way we can expand that to some low-level criminal offenses. That is something that maybe we should be looking at. We need to make sure in law enforcement that we are keeping up with the digital evidence.”