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by Paul Bass | Aug 12, 2014 3:13 pm

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Michael Stratton emerged from the police lock-up Tuesday afternoon determined to fight back against domestic-violence charges—by pleading not guilty and perhaps by filing a malicious prosecution lawsuit.

He didn’t enjoy spending hours in a cell with “a hundred flies on a piece of baloney in the toilet” while waiting to post bond after police arrested him, he told the Independent.

But one way he no longer plans to fight back: He no longer plans to mount a campaign for mayor next year, he said.

“Once I got perspective on it, I’m not running for mayor. I’m not running for dogcatcher. New Haven ahs to wake up and pay attention to people who try to do good things for it,” he said.

He announced that he has formed a new law firm, in the meantime. On Monday, he resigned as partner in the prominent law firm Stratton Faxon.

Stratton, a former city alder representing the Prospect Hill neighborhood, surrendered to police for arrest on a domestic-violence charge Tuesday, a day after resigning his post as a partner in one of the state’s most prominent plaintiffs’ law firm.

Stratton, who’s 48, had been wanted since July 2, when police issued a warrant for his arrest on misdemeanor charges of third-degree assault and second-degree breach of peace in connection with an argument he had with his girlfriend on June 13 at the Kelly House apartments.

Without making prior arrangements with the police, Stratton showed up alone at the front desk at police headquarters alone Tuesday. He said he arrived at 7:15 a.m. He told the sergeant on duty that he had a warrant out for him, according to Assistant Police Chief Al Vazquez. He was subsequently arrested.

He was then placed in the police lock-up and held on $2,500 bond.

Like others generally arrested at the time he was, Stratton was too late to make it to arraignment, and an earlier release, Tuesday. His arraignment is expected to take place Wednesday.

Maureen Keegan, the presiding judge at the state courthouse, told the Independent that marshals came to her after 11 a.m. Tuesday to see if they could bring Stratton in to be arraigned, as a special case. She said no. “I have a standing order,” she said: She doesn’t process any new arraignments after 10 a.m. on Mondays through Thursday (11 a.m. on Fridays). She said she refused to make an exception in this case.

Bail bondsman “Big Steve” Tracey arrived at the lock-up around 11 a.m., Stratton said. But Stratton wasn’t able to post bond and be processed until 1:30, he said.

“I’m ready to go. Big Steve was there. I’m ready to do the paperwork. “I’m in the cell. I’ve got a hundred flies on a piece of baloney in the toilet.”

Upon his release, he went home to a new apartment he’s renting in the Prospect Hill neighborhood. Soon after arrival, he was served with divorce papers, he said.

And “my law firm dissolved yesterday. I’m a free man,” Stratton declared. “I don’t have the same sense of doom when life changes. I think it’s an opportunity.”

Arraignment—& Lawsuit?—Loom

Police originally went to the Kelly House, on Temple Street, at 1:41 a.m. on June 13 in response to a domestic violence call. Stratton had been in an argument with a 20-year-old woman with whom he was living at the apartment building. He said the woman repeatedly hit him after he told her he was breaking off the relationship; she subsequently told the Independent the same story. Police arrested her that night.

For more than a week following the arrest, the police rank-and-file were abuzz with rumors that officers at the scene had gone into the couple’s apartment, noticed marijuana present, and filed no report about it. Those rumors prompted Chief Dean Esserman to order an internal investigation into the officers’ conduct that night.

In the course of the investigation, police reviewed video surveillance footage from the Kelly House. They said the video showed Stratton repeatedly striking the woman. Based on viewing that footage, Assistant State’s Attorney David Strollo applied for the arrest warrant, which a judge, former state Sen. Anthony Avallone, signed.

The internal police investigation ended with the chief ordering two cops to undergo retraining for their handling of the response, because they hadn’t filed a written report. The amount of marijuana found in the room was reported to be “very small.”

“Feel bad for responding police. Bogus reprimand for not giving me a $75 ticket for having half a joint in the sublet,” Stratton wrote on his Twitter feed on July 13. “New rule:smoke it all.”

He also wrote, in reference to his case: “I Am in full trial lawyer fight mode. It’s not in me to back down.”

On Tuesday afternoon, Stratton said he planned to review the surveillance video for the first time, at his lawyer’s office. He declined to name the lawyer.

Based on that video, he will decided whether or not to file a “malicious prosecution” suit based on his arrest. In either case, he plans to plead not guilty in his criminal case, he said.

He said his arrest warrant left out key exculpatory information about his case: “It doesn’t mention the witnesses on the fourth floor who saw me receiving punches and giving none. It doesn’t mention my calling 911 twice. No mention of [his girlfriend] saying at no time did I strike her. It doesn’t mention that I was bleeding as I came off the elevator.”

Whether or not he files that suit, Stratton intends to continue filing suits on behalf of other people, he said.

On Monday his employer, Stratton Faxon Trial Lawyers LLC, based at 59 Elm St. in downtown New Haven, announced that it has a new name: the Faxon Law Group Trial Lawyers.

“He hasn’t left the firm. His role here has changed,” the firm’s main partner, Joel Faxon, told the Independent Tuesday.

Stratton will continue trying cases, Faxon said. “That’s what he does. He’s very good.” But rather than a partner, he will work for the firm “of counsel” so that he can concentrate more on his political activities, according to Faxon.

“He has flexibility” this way, Faxon said. “This [running the firm as a partner] requires full-time effort.”

Stratton and Faxon have worked together since 1994, originally at the Birdgeport firm of Koskoff, Koskoff and Bieder. They started their own firm in 2003, building one of the most successful practices in the state focused on multimillion-dollar wrongful death and catastrophic injury lawsuits. It has also sponsored New Haven’s annual labor day road race.

Stratton told the Independent that he has formed a new firm, called True Stratton, which will specialize in trial work. He said he’s scouting for a space in New York City to open a satellite office. He will also work out of his old 59 Elm St. office in New Haven, he said.

“They gave me a very generous buyout package,” he said of this old law firm. “I don’t have to work anymore. But I’m going to do more public-interest work and personal injury cases. When somebody’s case come sup for trial, and they don’t feel they have the skills or time to devote to it, they hand it off to me. That’s what I’m good it.”


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