Harp: Fighting Wrongful Imprisonment Suit Could Have Cost $18M

Paul Bass PhotoIt could have been worse — an $18 million bill rather than a $9.5 million bill to compensate a man for the 18 years he spent locked up on charges fabricated by a crooked New Haven police detective.

So Mayor Toni Harp said about the news that the city has settled a lawsuit with former inmate Scott Lewis for $9.5 million. Which means New Haven will now go $9.5 million into debt to pay off the bill.

“It’s a lot. It could have been more though,” Harp said on the WNHH radio show “Mayor Monday.” “The judge could have decided that a million dollars a year is reasonable for the 18 years [Lewis] spent in jail. That has happened in the past.

“We felt we had to do it [settle]. When officers do something like that, and it impacts someone’s life, the judicial system is going to exact a price. It’s unfortunate. And we’re paying for it.”

Lewis was one of two men convicted of having committed a 1990 double murder in the Hill of former Alderman Ricardo Turner and his lover. An FBI investigation soon revealed that a detective named Vincent Raucci was heavily involved in New Haven’s cocaine trade and allegedly set up Turner based on fake evidence. It took more than a decade for Lewis to be freed from jail, and only after state and then federal appeals prepared with the help of pro bono attorneys and law students. Lewis was finally freed from jail in 2014. (Click here, here and here to read prior stories about his case. Click here for a detailed account of the FBI revelations and the specifics of this case, from a 1998 exposé in the now-defunct New Haven Advocate. And click here to read the full FBI report, which covered wide ground about New Haven’s drug trade.)

Lewis subsequently filed a federal suit against the city. After the judge, Stefan Underhill, denied a city request to dismiss the case, city lawyers negotiated the $9.5 million settlement. This week the Board of Alders received a Harp administration request to bond for the $9.5 million. (The settlement was first reported by the New Haven Register’s Mary O’Leary.)

Harp was asked on the radio program what the city is doing to prevent such expensive lawsuits in the future. She said — and Police Chief Anthony Campbell subsequently confirmed — that the department had hired a consultant to help screeners notice police applicants who could turn into rogue officers. “We’ve got to find ways to identify these people and root them out,” Harp said. She also said that the department’s “command structure” must “assure that all of the officers ... are honest. If they’re not, we’ve got to help them find another form of employment. It’s that simple.”

Scott Lewis told the Independent that on the advice of his lawyer he will not comment on the pending settlement until it’s finally approved.

Say It’s So, Joe

Paul Bass PhotoAlso on the “Mayor Monday” episode:

• Harp supported Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim’s bid to participate in the public-financing system for his 2018 run for governor.

Because Ganim spent seven years in prison for taking bribes and kickbacks (in his previous term as mayor; he won the seat again after leaving prison), he does not qualify for the system under the current rules. So he decided to file a federal lawsuit in an effort to strike down that part of the system, the Citizens Election Program, as unconstitutional.

“I would argue that if he’s a politician and he meets all the qualifications, why would you use that to hold against his actually participating in something that would be a clean way —  and difficult, by the way —  of raising money for a statewide campaign? I think we do it all the time,” giving people a second chance to participate in society after completing criminal sentences.

Harp equated Ganim’s bid to use public financing to ex-cons’ bids to regain voting rights.

She was asked about the special argument made in this case, that a politician who has abused the public trust shouldn’t get the special privilege of receiving taxpayer money to regain elected office. “That’s a decision that the legislature should make, and not a body that is not elected. And it should be debated,” Harp argued.

• In the wake of another homeless encampment appearing on the east side of town, Harp said, she has asked her community services chief to explore the underlying causes. The city earlier this year ordered a similar camp disassembled.

Harp said she has learned that part of the reason the camps pop up is that addicts from elsewhere in Connecticut come to New Haven for its plentiful methadone programs, some of which, unlike programs in other communities will provide the antidote even if a user has dirty urine. Addicts are coming here from as far as Willimantic, she said.

She also criticized state rules that have hindered the opening of clinics in towns that don’t have them.

• Unlike some other Connecticut municipalities, New Haven will not consider delaying the start of school, even if the state legislature fails to pass a new (overdue) budget this month, Harp said. A listener asked if any teacher layoffs loom if New Haven ends up millions of dollars short of promised state cash. “We will absolutely not do that unless the teachers are not teaching in the classroom and are funded by a grant that has been terminated,” Harp said.

Harp said her finance team has directed all departments, including the schools, “that any of the contracts that we have out there that we don’t have to negotiate right now and are not needed to start school or any of the work we have to start on — we are going to slow-walk the contracting process, hoping they will have a budget” soon. The city’s good for cash through Sept. 30, she said. If the state somehow still doesn’t have a budget at that point, she said, “we’re going to have a cash problem in this city.” The city could be as much as $60 million short at that point, she said.

Click on or download the above audio file to hear the full episode of “Mayor Monday” on WNHH radio. Click here to watch a Facebook Live video of the program.

This episode of “Mayor Monday” was made possible with the support of Gateway Community College and Berchem, Moses & Devlin, P.C.

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posted by: THREEFIFTHS on August 8, 2017  3:02pm

Harp equated Ganim’s bid to use public financing to ex-cons’ bids to regain voting rights.

Isaiah 1:23

23 Your rulers are rebels,
partners with thieves;
they all love bribes
and chase after gifts.
They do not defend the cause of the fatherless;
the widow’s case does not come before them.

posted by: Thomas Alfred Paine on August 8, 2017  4:27pm

There should be a law in every state that elected or appointed government officials convicted of bribery, embezzlement or any other criminal activity should be banned FOR LIFE from ever holding such office of public trust again.
Some may consider such a penalty too harsh or extreme, but a loud and crystal clear message needs to be sent to all politicians that such conduct and behavior are totally unacceptable and will not be tolerated in our society.
People who commit crimes against individuals or businesses, who do their time and are released back into society, should be given another chance to live,work, make a living and vote in our communities. However politicians are a special class of people, public servants entrusted by the people to represent their best interests.
Politicians should never be given the chance to betray the public trust TWICE.
ONE STRIKE of corruption and they should be OUT for life. They can find other work!
I would never vote for John Rowland, Joseph Ganim, or anyone like Richard Nixon. There are too many honest, dedicated, hardworking citizens in our communities capable of serving selflessly the communities in which they live to have to resort to crooks, ex-convicts and felons to serve in government leadership in our state and in our cities. These people can do volunteer work, community service or they can work in private industry. They need not apply for public service again.
This is wisdom, sound policy, good judgment and COMMON SENSE.
Mayor Harp may pal around with people like Joseph Ganim and defend the right of convicted criminal politicians to hold public office again after paying their debts to society, but people like Ganim should never ever be governor of the State of Connecticut or any other state in the Union.
Public service must be exclusively for people of honesty, integrity, dignity and character. No one is perfect. People do make mistakes, but politician must pay this highest penalty. High standards should not be lowered.

posted by: Thomas Alfred Paine on August 8, 2017  4:54pm

BUMPER STICKERS FOR CONNECTICUT RESIDENTS:
“No CLEAN money for politicians with DIRTY hands!”
“Keep our streets and our government clean!”
“Corrupt Politicians: Banned for Life!”
“Political Jail-birds of a feather flock together!”
“No Second chance for Political Crooks!”
“Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”

posted by: robn on August 8, 2017  5:07pm

Meanwhile, Republicans are breaking out the champi and clinking glasses because Joe Ganim will singlehandedly give them the governors mansion.

posted by: Thomas Alfred Paine on August 8, 2017  6:05pm

Three more:
“Only a fool knowingly votes for a crooked politician.”
“NIXON paraphrased: ‘The people have a right to know if their president, governors, mayors and other elected officials are crooks, so they will never vote for them again.’
“Politicians who endorse Joseph Ganim will commit political suicide!

posted by: Noteworthy on August 8, 2017  8:17pm

Too little to late and poor negotiation Notes:

1. Once again, taxpayers are on the hook for employees who do people wrong. But in any case, this settlement is outrageous and our attorneys clearly didn’t have a clue to drive it down.

2. As for Mayor Harp’s ridiculous statement about weeding out these rogue cops and others before they cost taxpayers big money - somebody should give her a lesson. We taxpayers are facing several employee based lawsuits that have a better than 50/50 chance of us losing - and they’re all from the actions of Harp and her cronies.

How do you mitigate that Mayor Harp?

posted by: Inside 165 on August 8, 2017  10:37pm

HEY PAUL BASS!!!!!

Harp said “The judge could have decided that a million dollars a year is reasonable for the 18 years [Lewis] spent in jail. That has happened in the past.”

Do you ever think of asking for specifics?  Could you ask Harp to give examples of when that has happened in the past?  I know you like to let her and her staff make statements without any verification at all but could you at least look a little like someone who wants facts as opposed to Harp banner man.

THIS SETTLEMENT IS RIDICULOUS!  Who the hell gave the legal advice that this could be 18 million?  Maybe on a good day the guy might get 2.5 million, maybe.

The blind leading the blind at 165.

Did the litigation settlement committee approve this?

posted by: robn on August 9, 2017  8:02am

Whats time worth to you? Whats 18 years worth to you? The man’s earning power might have been a million dollars and the rest probably punitive. But honestly folks, if someone offered you $9M to spend the next 18 years in jail, would you take it?

posted by: Noteworthy on August 9, 2017  10:05am

It’s not what we would do for $9 million - it’s what is in the best interests of taxpayers. The lawyers, paid for by us, are supposed to get the best deal - they didn’t. And frankly, I don’t buy the mayor’s suggestion that “it could have been worse.” That’s what those people always say.

posted by: 1644 on August 9, 2017  4:16pm

3/5’s On the other hand, their Paul’s letter to the Romans (Chap 13)
1. Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.
One can find a Bible passage (or proverb). to justify pretty much any position.  My favorites are, “Look before you leap” and “He who hesitates is lost.” :)

posted by: 1644 on August 9, 2017  7:12pm

18 years is a long, long time.  There is no way I would spend 18 years in jail for only $9 million, certainly not when I was young.  I expect many jurors would feel the same.  Of course, his lawyer will get $2-$3 million of his nine million.  The city got off cheap, but the only real way to stop this from recurring is infusing more discipline, accountability and oversight into our police forces, a process adamantly opposed by police unions and many police leaders.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on August 9, 2017  7:26pm

@1644

There are limits to authority. A father has authority in his home, but does this give him power to abuse his wife and children? Of course not. An employer has authority on the job, but does this give him power to control the private lives of his employees? Case and Point A minster said what if our President decided to resurrect the old monarchal custom of Jus Primae Noctis (Law of First Night)? That was the old medieval custom when the king claimed the right to sleep with a subject’s bride on the first night of their marriage. Would our sincere Christian brethren sheepishly say, “Romans Chapter 13 says we must submit to the government”? I think not. And would any of us respect any man who would submit to such a law?

3/5’s On the other hand, their Paul’s letter to the Romans (Chap 13)
1. Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.
One can find a Bible passage (or proverb). to justify pretty much any position.  My favorites are, “Look before you leap” and “He who hesitates is lost.” :)

Did Paul violate God’s principle of submission to authority when he refused to obey those authorities who demanded that he abandon his missionary work? In fact, Paul spent almost as much time in jail as he did out of jail. Did Simon Peter and the other Apostles violate God’s principle of submission to authority when they refused to stop preaching on the streets of Jerusalem?

Part One.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on August 9, 2017  7:35pm

Part two.

Also there is a long and respected tradition of civil disobedience in biblical history which God not only allows but also praises. It starts in Exodus 1. The Israelites had lived in Egypt under the rule of the Pharaohs for several centuries. They became very numerous, so the king of Egypt commanded the Hebrew midwives to kill all the boy babies born to the Israelites (v. 16). But verse 17 says, “The midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live.” And verse 20 adds, “So God dealt well with the midwives; and the people multiplied and grew strong. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families.” It seems clear to me that these women were not subject to the governing authorities. In fact, they saw the command of the king not as a command of God, but contrary to God’s command. So they disobeyed the civil authorities for God’s sake, and God was pleased. Also Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2:8, “None of the rulers of this age understood the wisdom of God; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.In John 19:10 Pilate says to Jesus, “‘Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?’ Jesus answered, ‘You would have no authority over me unless it had been given to you from above.’” Therefore, if Pilate, Nebuchadnezzar, and Darius were set in their places and given authority by God, even though they did much evil, then we have no reason to deny Paul’s assertion that “there is no authority except from God .Last Isaiah 1:23 has noting to do with governing authorities.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on August 9, 2017  7:38pm

posted by: 1644 on August 9, 2017 8:12pm

The city got off cheap, but the only real way to stop this from recurring is infusing more discipline, accountability and oversight into our police forces, a process adamantly opposed by police unions and many police leaders.

You always say the police unions. How about the Prosecutors who with hold Evidence.


She Was Convicted of Killing Her Mother. Prosecutors Withheld the Evidence That Would Have Freed Her.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/01/magazine/she-was-convicted-of-killing-her-mother-prosecutors-withheld-the-evidence-that-would-have-freed-her.html

posted by: 1644 on August 9, 2017  10:55pm

3/5’s well this article was about police misconduct.  I say the same for prosecutors who withhold exculpatory evidence.  They should be fired, disbarred, and lose their pensions.  Too many prosecutors forget their job is to do justice, not simply convict people.  (In contrast, defense attorneys need only think of their client.)