New Britain man NOT GUILTY
March 10, 2017
NEW BRITAIN —A New Britain jury found Michael Niedzwiecki NOT GUILTY of Sexual Assault 2nd Degree. Attorneys Walter C. Bansley IV and Donald Meehan represented Niedzwiecki.
The complainant, a convicted felon, testified that she awoke in the middle of the night to Niedzwiecki having unconsented sex with her. Under cross examination by Attorney Walter C. Bansley IV, she admitted that she was a convicted felon, failed to call the police and failed to tell the police that her boyfriend, Charles Was, slept one foot away from her while this occurred.
The complainant’s boyfriend, Charles Was, a convicted felon, testified that he awoke to his girlfriend screaming, “he’s raping me” and seeing Niedzwiecki having sex with her. Through other testimony, Attorney Bansley elicited details that Was left the apartment immediately after the “rape,” hid from police, and refused to give a written statement.
New Britain police officer Martinez testified that, despite Niedzwiecki’s statement he had consensual sex in exchange for drugs, he also stated that, “he raped her.”
Attorney Bansley argued to the jury that this was consensual sex arranged between Niedzwiecki and the complainant for drugs and that, when Was awoke to seeing his girlfriend having sex with Niedzwiecki, the complainant had no choice but to allege rape.
By virtue of the jury’s acquittal, the jury discredited four different witnesses that claimed Niedzwiecki admitted to the rape.
New Haven man found NOT GUILTY on all charges
January 30, 2017
NEW HAVEN — A New Haven jury found Teshawn Stewart not guilty on the three counts the State of Connecticut charged him with: attempted sex assault first degree, attempted sex assault third degree, and unlawful restraint.
After only about 45 minutes, the foreperson announced the three straight not guilty verdicts. Stewart embraced his attorney, Walter C. Bansley IV. Attorney Alexandra Georgieva was Bansley’s co-counsel.
The State alleged that 40 year old Stewart drove to an intersection where he abducted the complainant, taking her back to a driveway where he attempted to sexually assault her. But, the jury did not seem to credit her account of events.
In addition to Bansley highlighting the 3 hour time gap from allegation to the 911 call and numerous inconsistencies in the complainant’s story, Bansley presented an alibi defense. According to several defense witnesses, Stewart was clear across town with family and friends at the time this was alleged to have occurred.
Murder case goes to jury
December 14, 2016
NEW HAVEN >>Twelve jurors Wednesday afternoon began deliberating as to whether Lamont Edwards murdered 15-year-old Jacob Craggett and wounded his older brother and their friend on a summer night in New Haven two years ago. When the jurors had not reached a verdict after 90 minutes of discussion, Superior Court Judge Brian T. Fischer sent them home. They are scheduled to resume Thursday morning.
Before receiving the case, the jury heard an hour of clashing closing arguments by Senior Assistant State’s Attorney Seth Garbarsky and defense attorney Walter Bansley IV on whether the state had proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt. Edwards, 38, of New Haven, is charged with murder in the shooting death of Craggett as well as two counts of first-degree assault for allegedly wounding Joshua Craggett, then 22, and Timothy Jones, also then 22. In addition, Edwards faces conspiracy and weapons counts.
A fourth occupant in Jones’ car, Jerray Jackson, then 17, was not hurt when two gunmen opened fire from both sides of the vehicle. The crime happened Aug. 8, 2014 at about 9 p.m. at the corner of Vernon Street and Davenport Avenue. Police have neither identified nor charged a second gunman. Before closing arguments Wednesday, New Haven Police Detective Michael Wuchek testified that three people identified Edwards as one of the two shooters.
But under Bansley’s cross-examination, Wuchek acknowledged the state’s key witness initially said he didn’t see the gunmen and only identified Edwards as a shooter after he heard neighborhood rumors implicating him. Bansley also asked: “There was no DNA or fingerprints connecting Mr. Edwards to the shooting?” “Correct,” Wuchek answered.
After Garbarsky rested his case at 10:40 a.m., Bansley announced, “The defense does not feel a need to present any evidence and we rest.”
Garbarsky began his closing argument by saying the shooters intended target was Jones, not the Craggett brothers. “All the shots were in the front seat,” Garbarsky noted. “They wanted ‘T.J.’ dead.” But Josh Craggett, also hit, reportedly cried out, “I’m dying,” Garbarsky added.
“Jacob gets out of the car to save his brother,” Garbarsky continued. “He ends up getting shot in the back and through his chest. It ends his life.” But Garbarsky alleged Edwards is guilty of murder because “He tried to kill ‘T.J.’ and caused the death of Jacob.”
However, Bansley in his argument said the state presented “minimal evidence” of Edwards’ guilt. He called it “not credible.”
Bansley asserted, “Eyewitness unreliability is real.” Bansley said the state’s two major pieces of evidence were the key witness and a woman who told police Edwards called her the day after the shootings and made incriminating statements. Dismissing the key witness, Bansley said, “It wasn’t until the ‘feds’ dragged him in and he was under the federal government’s pressure that he said, ‘Oh, I heard rumors Edwards was the shooter and now I believe he was the shooter.’” As for the woman who said Edwards called her, Bansley noted, “She said supposedly it was him on the phone, it sounded like him on the phone. It’s sketchy.”
But Garbarsky cited that witness’ account of what Edwards allegedly said to her: “Damn, it wasn’t meant for kids, it was meant for ‘T.J.’” She also quoted him saying: “I did it. I didn’t know Josh and Jacob were in the car.” Garbarsky also brought up witness reports they heard somebody say in the aftermath of the shootings: “What is ‘Duce’ doing? Why is he wilding? Josh is in that car.” “Duce” is Edwards’ nickname. In addition, Garbarsky reminded the jury of testimony by Edwards’ wife. She said they got married at New Haven City Hall three days after the shootings and tried to drive to California the day after that. Police detained them on the Merritt Parkway in Greenwich. “Whose idea was it to get married on the first business day after the shooting?” Garbarsky asked. “‘Duce.’ Whose idea was it to go to California? ‘Duce.’”
Garbarsky said this showed Edwards’ consciousness of guilt. Garbarsky also noted Edwards returned a rental car he was using on the morning after the crime; gave somebody else’s name when police asked him who he was in Stamford; and stopped making or receiving cell phone calls a couple of days after the shootings. “Is that consistent with somebody who’s innocent?” Garbarsky asked. “Or is it consistent with somebody trying to get away with murder?”
But Bansley said there was “an innocent explanation” for the California plan: “He wanted to get his name cleared. He wasn’t going to Venezuela. He was going to California to visit his wife’s brother.”
Bansley charged: “The police investigation was a conclusion made by them, and everything after it was to support the pre-determined conclusion.”
Pointing to Edwards, Bansley said, “He’s sitting here because somebody took down the license plate of a rental car.”
Call Randall Beach at 203-680-9345.
PROUD SPONSOR OF: CT Veterans Patriot Race
November 11, 2016
Come run and support our veterans!
PROUD SPONSOR OF: CT Veterans Patriot Race
November 11, 2016
Come run and support our veterans!
HOME FOR THE BRAVE STAIR CLIMB
September 24, 2016
Always looking out for our veterans, members of the firm participated in the Home for the Brave stair climb to help raise money.
August 4, 2016
With a unanimous decision, the Board of Pardons and Parole today decided to grant our application for parole.
Attorneys Kristin Losi and Amy Zurlo appeared before the Connecticut Board of Pardons and Parole on behalf of a client who was eligible for a parole hearing under Public Act 15-84. A hearing was conducted to determine if our client should be released on parole after serving over (15) years in DOC custody. In 2002, this client plead guilty to Manslaughter in the First Degree and received a sentence of (22) years incarceration. Our client will be released on November 4, 2016 and home in time this year to celebrate Thanksgiving with his family for the first time in (15) years.
MURDER CHARGE DISMISSED IN HARTFORD
May 6, 2016
By David Owens
HARTFORD — A Superior Court judge on Friday dismissed a murder charge against a man who had been jailed for months awaiting trial after prosecutors said DNA evidence in the case was not reliable.
Denzil Nurse, 44, of Hartford, had been awaiting trial in the killing of Sonia Rivera until his abrupt release two weeks ago. Prosecutors Elizabeth Tanaka and Anne Mahoney notified Nurse’s lawyers of the trouble with their evidence and moved to have Nurse released.
After two weeks of additional investigation, Tanaka told Judge Carl E. Taylor Friday that she was dropping the case against Nurse and ending the prosecution. Nurse’s lawyer, Walter C. Bansley IV, then asked the judge to dismiss the charges.
Tanaka told the judge that after Nurse’s arrest on May 8, 2014, prosecutors and police continued to investigate. During that time, they could not find additional evidence of Nurse’s guilt and discovered evidence that linked another person to Rivera’s murder, Tanaka said. The defense also presented evidence of an alibi for Nurse, she told the judge. Authorities would not say whether an arrest is imminent.
Rivera, 48, was found badly beaten on Sept. 27, 2012 in a trash-strewn lot behind 216 Washington St. in Hartford. Rivera’s killer had beaten her with a brick. She died at Hartford Hospital.
Nurse’s DNA was included in a mixture of DNA recovered from Rivera’s battered body, according to the warrant for his arrest. But the analysis of that DNA by a private consultant was not reliable, Tanaka told the judge. Investigators said the case was complicated by the fact Rivera was working as a prostitute prior to her death.
The consultant, according to Nurse’s arrest warrant, concluded that Nurse was the primary DNA donor on samples recovered from Rivera’s body and that Nurse was “the closest in time frame for intimate sexual contact with Sonia Rivera” to her death.
Most of the evidence against Nurse was circumstantial and the DNA evidence, which investigators concluded solidly linked Nurse to Rivera’s death, turned out to be another piece of circumstantial evidence. It placed Nurse with Rivera, but did not conclusively link him to her murder.
Mahoney said Tanaka, who has training in DNA analysis, spotted the problem.
“Her critical analysis of the outside expert’s opinion brought up what the problem was and it became a critical issue in the case,” Mahoney said outside court. “It wasn’t anything that the police did wrong. It wasn’t that the state lab did anything wrong. It was simply overreach by an expert that Elizabeth spotted.”
The DNA evidence and cell phone records led Hartford detectives to Nurse, whose DNA was on file because of previous felony convictions. Detectives interviewed Nurse and he admitted he’d been near the crime scene when police think Rivera was killed, but he denied having sex with her.
When detectives went to talk to Nurse again, they told him they’d found his DNA in Rivera’s body. He again insisted he was innocent of killing her, but said she’d performed a sex act on him. Police, in the warrant, said his explanations of how his DNA got into certain parts of Rivera’s body did not make sense. Nurse said Friday that he knew Rivera and had sex with her, but he didn’t provide police with all the details of their sexual encounter. “I was trying to distance myself because I didn’t do anything,” he said.
He said he was shocked when police charged him with Rivera’s murder, but maintained his innocence and was confident in his defense attorneys, Bansley and D. Wade Luckett. “I just kept my head up and kept my faith in them,” he said.
Nurse was serving a 30-month prison sentence that began in 2013 when he was arrested two years ago in the Rivera case. His bail was set at $2 million at the time and he spent the last two years at Northern Correctional Institution, the state’s super max prison in Somers.
Prosecutors had offered Nurse a plea agreement of 35 years in prison in exchange for a guilty plea. He rejected the deal and was waiting for a trial when two weeks ago he was transported to the Hartford courthouse. His lawyers told him his bail was being reduced and he was going home.
“Come on man, stop playing with me,” he said he responded. “I’ve got a $2 million bond.” “He thought I was joking with him,” Bansley said.
His lawyers explained the issues brought to their attention by prosecutors and that he’d be released. A short time later he was on his way home. Nurse said he’s been staying with friends.
Man Charged In Hartford Murder Released
April 22, 2016
By David Owens
HARTFORD — A 44-year-old Hartford man who has been jailed for two years awaiting trial on a murder charge was released on a written promise to appear in court Friday.
Denzil Nurse still faces a murder charge in connection with the 2010 death of Sonia Rivera, 48, whose battered body was found in a trash-strewn lot behind 216 Washington St.
Prosecutors were circumspect in their comments before Judge Carl E. Taylor.
“There’s been some exculpatory evidence that has come to light,” prosecutor Elizabeth Tanaka told the judge. Prosecutors had notified Nurse’s lawyer, Walter C. Bansley IV, of the change in circumstances and their recommendation to release Nurse.
Outside court, Bansley said some “solid exculpatory evidence” has come to light.
Hartford police used cell phone records and DNA to link Nurse to Rivera’s death. Nurse is due back in court May 6.
Mother of teenager taken down by New Haven cops after parade files lawsuit
April 12, 2016
NEW HAVEN >> The mother of a teenage girl who was taken to the ground by police Officer Joshua Smereczynsky shortly after last year’s St. Patrick’s Day parade has filed a federal lawsuit against the city, Police Chief Dean Esserman, Smereczynsky and “unknown officers.”
The plaintiff was listed on the document as “Jane Doe, a minor, by and through her guardian, Valerie Boyd,” who is her mother. The girl has been previously identified in media reports as Teandrea Cornelius, who was 15 at the time of the incident.
Her treatment by police, which was captured on video, sparked angry demonstrations by protesters alleging police brutality and counter-protests by police officers at City Hall. Some officers were enraged when Mayor Toni Harp announced Smereczynsky had been placed on desk duty until the event could be investigated. Three days later, Esserman announced Smereczynsky had been cleared of wrongdoing.
The lawsuit, written by attorney Heather Rolfes of New Haven, alleges Cornelius’ constitutional rights were violated as she was subjected to “unreasonable search and seizure and false arrest” as well as “unreasonable force.”
The lawsuit also claims the city’s representatives, and specifically Esserman, “failed to adequately investigate the incident and to amend the policies and patterns of discrimination and excessive force of the police department and its officers.”
When reached for comment Tuesday, Esserman said, “Out of respect to the family and all involved, I have no comment.”
At the time he announced Smereczynsky had been cleared, Esserman said the officer had followed his training while handling Cornelius.
Esserman also said at that time, “the officer observed a weapon in the girl’s bag.”
But Boyd said her daughter was carrying a knife because she needed to protect herself from another girl who had been bullying her.
The lawsuit stated that Smereczynsky “did not see the handle of a knife protruding from Jane Doe’s purse prior to his forcing her to the ground.”
The document quoted the girl saying the knife was kept inside a zipped inner pocket of her purse.
The lawsuit recounts that on March 15, 2015, at about 2:42 p.m., Smereczynsky arrived at Buffalo Wild Wings, 74 Church St., in response to a call for service.
The restaurant’s manager reportedly told the officer that three young girls who were seated in the lobby waiting area had been involved in a minor skirmish inside the eatery.
According to the lawsuit, the manager pointed at Cornelius and said, “She Maced us.” When Smereczynsky ordered the girl to stand and remove her hand from her jacket pocket, he allegedly did not give her time to comply; instead he “lunged at her pocketed hand.”
The officer allegedly grabbed her left wrist, handcuffed it and then handcuffed her right wrist as they struggled. Then he “forced her outside,” and “dragged” her onto the street, where he allegedly “pinned her against the back of a parked Sport Utility Vehicle.”
At that point, the lawsuit stated, Smereczynsky “allegedly saw the handle of a knife protruding out from her purse. Defendant Smereczynsky threw her down, slamming her face onto the sidewalk curb and kneeled on her back. She did not and could not move whilst pinned face down in the snow and mud.”
At that point, the document continued, Smereczynsky retrieved a small kitchen knife from her handbag. He and two other officers then “yanked her up off of the ground” and took her to police headquarters.
According to the lawsuit, officers searched the girl and did not find Mace “or any other contraband.”
The suit alleged the girl told Smereczynsky her face hurt but he did not offer her medical attention. Boyd has said her daughter had to go to the hospital for treatment of a shoulder fracture and a facial wound.
The lawsuit alleged she “feared for her life during the arrest and continues to suffer emotional distress and anxiety as a result.” It charged her arrest “was carried out by the defendants with malice and without probable cause. Moreover, the defendants’ conduct shocks the conscience.”
As a result of the defendants’ actions, the lawsuit stated, the girl “suffered loss of liberty, property and reputation, humiliation and emotional distress.”
The lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages of an unspecified amount. “The plaintiff requests a trial by jury.”
Call Randall Beach at 203-680-9345.
New Haven man found not guilty of sexually assaulting girl
April 6, 2016
NEW HAVEN >> A Superior Court jury Wednesday took just 28 minutes to find Arnold Payne not guilty on seven charges related to two alleged sexual assaults of a young girl in 2008 and 2014.
The six jurors clearly did not believe the testimony of the girl, now a teenager. She did not report the alleged offenses until seven years after the most serious of the two incidents.
Her credibility was the central focus Wednesday when attorneys for both sides made their closing arguments. They agreed the believability of her testimony was the key factor in the case.
Payne, 57, of New Haven, a relative of the teen, had been charged with two counts of first-degree assault, fourth-degree sexual assault and four counts of risk of injury to a minor.
Assistant State’s Attorney Lisa D’Angelo asserted Payne had forced the girl to have sexual intercourse at her home in January 2008 while her mother was out of the house. Payne was also charged with luring the girl into his vehicle near a public park sometime in 2014 and making contact with her intimate body parts.
But defense attorney Walter Bansley IV (assisted by attorney Wade Luckett) reminded jurors in his closing argument that there was no forensic evidence and no corroborating witnesses to support the girl’s account.
Bansley cited state documents showing Payne was incarcerated on unrelated charges in 2014 and so he could not have committed the second assault.
“If you think she lied about 2014,” Bansley said, “then it was a lie about 2008, too.”
Bansley asserted the girl has a “toxic” relationship with her mother. He said she might have wanted to get back at her mother or garner sympathy by fabricating the sexual assault stories.
Bansley also reminded the jury the girl did not report the alleged attacks to anybody until she finally told her mother in January 2015. He noted the girl, who in the months before then had been living with another relative, made the allegations as she and the mother argued about the girl violating a curfew.
But D’Angelo told the jurors that for many sexual assault victims, “delaying disclosure is typical.” D’Angelo quoted the girl’s testimony that Payne allegedly had threatened to kill her and family members if she told them what had happened. “There is no evidence of any motive for her to lie,” D’Angelo added. “She said it was not easy for her to come in and tell what happened to her.”
D’Angelo also said the girl’s account had been “consistent” when talking to her mother and child abuse experts as well as when she testified during the trial. D’Angelo called the girl “the perfect victim.” The prosecutor noted the girl’s mother had been arrested at a pawn shop on a charge of passing a bad check at about 12:30 p.m. on the day of the alleged home assault. Payne was with her when she was arrested, knew she would be detained at the police station for at least several hours and so he went to the mother’s house and told the babysitter to leave. He reportedly told her he would take care of the girl and her younger sister.
But Bansley cited the girl’s “lack of emotion” and “flat affect” as she recounted her allegations. He said it did not appear to be a traumatic remembering “of something she actually lived through.”
He noted she testified it hurt when she was sexually assaulted in 2008 but when she was interviewed by authorities, “she didn’t talk about pain, she didn’t talk about it hurting. Now all of a sudden she wants to talk about pain and hurting?”
D’Angelo responded that a lack of emotion does not mean the girl must be lying. “People can react differently in different situations.”
Although Bansley questioned the girl’s account of the second assault because she named different parks and didn’t know the month in which it occurred, D’Angelo reminded jurors of the girl’s young age. “She knows it happened. She’s just not sure of the date.”
Bansley criticized investigators for not tracking down the girl’s friends who were with her at the park during the alleged second attack and for not finding the babysitter who reportedly had been sent away by Payne. Bansley said they might have corroborated or refuted the girl’s accounts.
Before closing arguments Wednesday, Bansley called to the witness stand New Haven police Officer Reginald McGlotten, who said that on April 2013 he responded to a report of trouble at the home shared by the girl and her mother. He said the girl told him her mother had beaten her because she was texting a boyfriend.
McGlotten testified the mother told him “that if her daughter doesn’t get her way, she makes up stories.”
Asked by Bansley whether the mother said her daughter “lied a lot,” McGlotten said, “Yes.”
The jurors began deliberating at 2:45 p.m. but the forewoman signaled at 3:13 p.m. they had reached a verdict. As Payne stood facing the jury, the forewoman said “not guilty” seven times to each listed charge. Payne nodded slightly as the first “not guilty” was announced. At the end he smiled and shook hands with his attorneys.
But he was not freed; judicial marshals cuffed him and led him back into custody. Payne has an extensive criminal record and in February 2014 received a three-year jail sentence for first-degree harassment and violating a protective order.
Although D’Angelo had no comment on the verdict, Bansley said: “From day one, Arnold has maintained his innocence. He got what he wanted: he was vindicated.”
Call Randall Beach at 203-680-9345.
New Haven man’s trial on sexual assault charges begins with alleged victim’s testimony
April 4, 2016
NEW HAVEN >> A teenager testified in Superior Court Monday that defendant Arnold Payne allegedly sexually assaulted her in 2008 and again in 2014.
The complainant was the first witness called by Assistant State’s Attorney Lisa D’Angelo. The teen went into graphic detail during questioning by D’Angelo and cross-examination by defense attorney Walter Bansley IV as nine jurors listened intently. Payne, 57, of New Haven, is charged with two counts of first-degree sexual assault, four counts of risk of injury and fourth-degree sexual assault.
When the witness took the stand, she said she had known Payne, a relative of hers, for many years because he often visited the family home. She identified him in the courtroom. One day in January 2008, she testified, while her mother was not home, Payne told the woman who was baby-sitting her and her sister that she could leave and he would watch the kids. The witness testified Payne forced her to have sex with him. “I was trying to get up,” she said. “But he was holding my arms.” After the alleged assault, she testified, “He said if I told anyone, he would kill me” and others in her family. She said she was so scared that she kept it secret until 2015 when she finally told her mother. Approximately six years after the first incident, she testified, Payne pulled up in a vehicle while she was playing with several of her friends at a neighborhood park in New Haven. She said he called her over to his vehicle, where he touched her private parts until she got out of the car.
The girl testified she at last told her mother about the two alleged incidents “because she told me he was arrested.” Bansley objected to this disclosure in front of the jury and Superior Court Judge Brian T. Fischer sustained the objection. He told the jurors to disregard that information.
According to the arrest warrant affidavit prepared by police, Payne was convicted of first-degree sexual assault and second-degree unlawful restraint in 1993 and on first-degree sexual assault and first-degree unlawful restraint in 1985.
During cross-examination, the girl said she didn’t remember seeing any blood during the alleged sexual assault and she didn’t recall telling authorities that she hadn’t felt any pain. She testified: “It hurt.”
The witness was unsure in which park the second alleged incident occurred and when it happened. She told Bansley she walked over to Payne’s car when he asked her to and got into his car voluntarily.
Bansley is hoping Fischer will allow the jury to hear the girl’s account that she was quarreling with her mother so often that she moved out for several months. Bansley asserted to Fischer it’s also relevant to her allegations of sexual abuse that she told her mother about those allegations after she had moved back home and her mom was scolding her for violating curfew. The witness said, while the jury was absent, that her mother then started lecturing her about boys and that’s when she told her about the alleged sexual abuse.
Bansley told Fischer “this is why and when she disclosed” the allegations. But D’Angelo argued this is irrelevant.
Call Randall Beach at 203-680-9345.