More than 50 people have threatened to harm Irv Pinsky since he filed notice that he plans to sue the state in connection with the Newtown massacre, the New Haven lawyer said Tuesday.
Bill O’Reilly’s Fox TV program and others have called, too, asking him to appear on national TV, Pinsky said. He’s not heeding them either.
Why? He wants to avoid adding to the “divisiveness” that has erupted since he took the debate over the Newtown massacre into the legal realm, Pinsky said.
Pinsky made those remarks in a New Year’s Day interview with the Independent four days after he filed notice with the state claims commissioner that he wants to file a $100 million state claim on behalf of a client, a 6-year-old who heard the “cursing, screaming and shooting” inside Sandy Hook Elementary School when a gunman massacred schoolchildren on Dec. 14. Read about his legal filing here.
Pinsky Tuesday said he was in the process of withdrawing the filing for now in order to “calm the divisiveness and tremors.” But he said he had reserved all rights to refile the request based on some “new evidence” he has received.
Pinsky reported that his phone has been ringing with hostile threats from strangers around the country. They’ve also posted nasty remarks on his Facebook page, among other places on the web.
He estimated that well over 50 of the calls have involved death threats. Typically someone threatens “shooting,” Pinsky said.
He made a distinction between those threats of physical violence and others that fall short of violence: For example, other people have called or written to tell him, “I want to shit on you,” according to Pinsky.
“I get them from Texas, Alabama, Georgia. I get them from Connecticut too,” Pinsky said. “I’m sick of it.
“When I represented Occupy [New Haven], I got the same thing on a smaller scale. You read the right-wing comments every day.”
Along with the threats have come an outpouring of just plain criticism, like this one posted on his Facebook page Tuesday by Rich Evans: “Irv, I always knew you are a bit wacky and enjoy the spot light but you have gone too far with suing CT over Newtown. You don’t have a horse in the race and you are nothing but an opportunist seeking notoriety using dead children.”
He also received messages of support like this one posted Saturday by Christine Klezun Ladewig: “Sometimes parting with money is the only language that governments understand. I hope that what will come out of this is that no other child or parent ever have to go through this again. We should feel safe sending our babies to school. I don’t for a minute believe you are doing this for the money and hope that some of it can go into a scholarship fund. Blessings to you Irv!”
Pinsky was asked how he feels getting threatened and hammered nationwide.
“The way I look at it is,” he responded, “if I get 1,000 death threats, that’s like one-one-hundredeth of 1 percent of the people in the world. If I get 10,000 that’s way, way under 1 percent. That 1 percent is probably writing letters to Obama every day and Hillary every day and calling the White House and saying the same things but using a little less violence in their words to avoid the presidential death threat law.”
His legal filing made international news after first being reported in the Independent and CT News Junkie Friday afternoon. Since then CBS and Fox News, among others, have called asking him to appear on national television, Pinsky said. He said he decided not to milk the opportunity.
“I turned down Bill O’Reilly. I don’t like all the fuel on the fire. I don’t like the divisiveness with which America is being riven. It’s been riven before. Remember the Civil War? I remember Vietnam. I don’t to add to the divisiveness,” Pinsky said.
Jepsen Criticizes Filing
A more moderate criticism of Pinsky came from Connecticut’s top lawyer, state Attorney General George Jepsen. Jepsen, whose office would have to represent the state in an eventual lawsuit, issued a release Monday calling Pinsky’s filing without merit.
“Our hearts go out to this family, and to all the children and families affected by the Newtown shootings. They deserve a thoughtful and deliberate examination of the causes of this tragedy and of the appropriate public policy responses. However, the Office of the Claims Commissioner is not the appropriate venue for that important and complex discussion,” the statement argued.
Pinsky said Tuesday that he doesn’t believe the statement negates his filing, but rather suggests that “he doesn’t have all the facts yet. I basically agree.”
He said he believes the courts are the right venue for bringing out some of the facts behind school violence and pressuring government for solutions.
“I think the legal system is our best hope to address it. Nothing else is getting done. This is going to have to begin,” Pinsky argued. “The violence is coming into the schools. That’s one of my key lines in this whole thing: It will happen again unless we upgrade our security in our schools to protect our children. That’s what adults are supposed to do.”
Reached Tuesday morning, Jepsen said he very much believes that there is no merit to a suit against the state—- and that the courts are the wrong venue for the issue.
“If you want exploration of the issues of gun violence and how they relate to people’s mental health issues, how it’s not young women out there shooting people, it’s young males ... If you want to have an exploration of these issues there are better ways to go about it,” Jepsen said.
“I think his lawsuit is groundless, without basis. New facts may come out, and if you want to file a lawsuit then, fine. But based on the facts that are out there, there’s no grounds for this lawsuit, and there’s no legal theory for the lawsuit either. For example, it’s very well-established law that local school districts are” not state agencies “for the purposes of the issue of negligence. The premise of his lawsuit is badly flawed.”
The Connecticut Trial Lawyers Association also recently issued a statement critical of Pinsky’s filing. It read: “CTLA joins with all other citizens in CT in mourning the tragic loss of life in Newtown. We believe that the timing and circumstances of this action are ill-advised. We will continue to extend our heartfelt sympathies to the victims of the Newtown tragedy and we remain committed to joining the efforts of countless individuals in CT and around the country to find ways to assist the victims and families affected by this tragedy.”