A Superior Court judge Tuesday rejected a defense motion to dismiss manslaughter and assault charges against a former Hartford detective.
The case against Robert Lawlor will now go to trial.
Lawlor was charged by the state's attorney's office in June 2006 with first-degree manslaughter and first-degree assault in connection with an on-duty shooting. The charges were filed after a report filed by Superior Court Judge George N. Thim, acting as investigatory grand juror.
Thim found that there was sufficient evidence to bring charges against Lawlor in connection with the May 2005 fatal shooting of Jashon Bryant, 18, and the wounding of Bryant's companion, Brandon Henry.
Defense attorney Michael Georgetti sought dismissal of the charges, contending that former Chief State's Attorney Christopher Morano prejudiced the case when it was transferred to New Haven State's Attorney Michael Dearington for prosecution.
Georgetti said the case should not have been transferred without permission from the three-judge panel that created the grand jury. Georgetti further argued that Dearington should not have shared findings with Bryant's family and attorneys representing Henry.
Prosecutors countered that the information was properly kept secret until the grand jury report was made public.
Superior Court Judge Joseph Q. Koletsky agreed. He dismissed Georgetti's motion and granted a motion by Dearington to proceed to trial.
Georgetti said he plans to appeal Koletsky's ruling. He said the Supreme Court has not yet ruled on his previous claims that the defense has been denied secret information supplied to the grand jury.
"We are in a legal limbo here. The Superior Court says we ought to proceed with trial. The Supreme Court hasn't heard our case.
"I am extremely disappointed with the judge's ruling when the case is before the Supreme Court," Georgetti said.
Lawlor, who remains free on bail, arrived in court Tuesday accompanied by more than a half-dozen state troopers. That level of security would not be provided the typical defendant and would have been requested by a judge or a court officer, state police spokesman Lt. J. Paul Vance said.
Keith Thomas, the father of Jashon Bryant, was in court quietly observing the proceedings. State and city law enforcement officials say Thomas has harassed Lawlor in the past and sought unsuccessfully to have him prosecuted. A judge last summer refused to issue a protective order that would have barred Thomas from being in or near court during any appearance by Lawlor.
Around 7:30 p.m. on May 7, 2005, Lawlor and federal agent Daniel Prather of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were working a detail in Hartford looking for illegal firearms. With guns drawn, they approached a car at the corner of North Main and Sanford streets. Henry was driving the car and Bryant was a front-seat passenger.
Lawlor told investigators that as he approached the car, Henry put it into gear and Bryant reached for an object that Lawlor said looked like a gun. Lawlor then opened fire, hitting both the driver and passenger.
Prather said he never saw a gun or thought that he and his partner were in danger. No gun was recovered from the vehicle or found near the scene.
Lawlor has retired as a Hartford police officer. At the time of his arrest, he was suspended from duty after 18 years on the job.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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