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State Supreme Court To Hear Courant Appeal

By Jeffrey B. Cohen

July 24, 2009

The state Supreme Court will hear an appeal by The Courant of a judge's decision to seal his final report into the investigation of corruption in the administration of Mayor Eddie A. Perez.

On Thursday, Superior Court Judge Dennis Eveleigh said that he would seal the parts of the report in which he finds probable cause because the report's release could either damage a person's right to a fair trial or their reputation.

In its appeal, attorneys for the newspaper argue that jury questioning and a change of venue could ensure a fair trial, while also arguing that the report doesn't "establish facts of significant damage to reputation or the element of uncorroborated information," attorneys from the Hartford office of Hinckley, Allen & Snyder, LLP wrote.

"In the balancing of access to a finding of the 18 months of work by the [grand jury], against the possible embarrassment to individuals referenced as having relationships with persons involved with criminal activity, the public interest must prevail."

The newspaper filed its appeal late Friday afternoon; the Supreme Court's clerk then notified the newspaper's attorneys that the court would likely hold a hearing on the appeal on Wednesday.

Perez has been the focus of state investigators since the beginning of 2007. For 18 months that ended roughly two months ago, Eveleigh served as the lone grand juror in the state's investigatory grand jury probe.

Perez was arrested in January and pleaded not guilty to charges of bribery, fabricating evidence and conspiracy to fabricate evidence relating to allegedly discounted work done on his home by city contractor Carlos Costa, who was also arrested and has pleaded not guilty.

Eveleigh filed his final report in the investigation on June 29. Since then, the question has been whether to release it.

State law says the report should be made public, unless state prosecutors seek to keep it sealed. In this case, they did, and The Courant opposed them. On Thursday, Eveleigh released his decision to keep much of the report sealed. Eveleigh said that state prosecutors have not obtained new arrest warrants based on his report.

"The information contained in the report, records and findings, is so damning that the publicity would affect the said individual's right to a fair trial," Eveleigh said. But, the judge cautioned, all or some of that information "may not survive the scrutiny of cross-examination."

What comes next is unclear. In his ruling, Eveleigh said that some of his report -- the parts that deal with the investigation's background and scope -- would be released after the 72-hour appeal period had expired, "if no appeals have been filed."

As for the appeal itself, state law says that the "Appellate Court shall provide an expedited hearing."

Reprinted with permission of the CityLine blog of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the CityLine at http://blogs.courant.com/cityline/ and the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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