(Hartford Government Examiner July 13th, 2011)
The protesters were in the courtroom as court convened at 10am and waited until a long series of defendants in various cases were called before Mr. Bernard was escorted from a holding cell in handcuffs and shackles and appeared next to his attorney before Judge Scarpellino. Mr. Bernard’s public defender, Thomas Conroy, addressed the court indicating that Mr. Bernard wished to make a statement on his own behalf. The defendant then requested a different attorney, complained that the New Haven Correctional Center where he has been held on a $10,000 bond since June 27th,after being adjudicated competent to stand trial, is not allowing him access to phones, and requested a continuance in the case until July 26th.
Judge Scarpellino indicated in open court that an offer had been made to Mr. Bernard of a one year jail term suspended after 60 days served, followed by probation for the charge pending against him which is animal cruelty. Mr. Bernard rejected the offer in court. The Judge indicated to Mr. Bernard that if the case was continued as he wished and if he pursued his endeavors to switch attorneys, that by the time his legal maneuverings were complete he likely would have served the remainder of the 60 days being offered and already be out of jail. The judge is on vacation the week of July 26thand continued Mr. Bernard’s case until July 22ndand that is when his next appearance is now scheduled. Both the judge and Mr. Bernard’s attorney appeared exasperated by the defendant’s actions. Judge Scarpellino indicated that he would ensure that the Correction Center would facilitate phone calls for Mr. Bernard as appropriate.
At present, Princess is in the care of North Haven Animal Hospital, and a phone call to the facility provided some good news. Princess has apparently recovered to the point that placement in a new home is now feasible, and the process is under the purview of the Hamden Animal Control office! She is nearly well enough medically for that to now transpire. Dr. Wells of the Animal Hospital spoke with me, and confirmed Princess’ much improved medical situation. Her most severe injuries had been blood loss from the sheer volume of stab wounds and a pneumothorax—a lung collapse (exactly the same consequence I, myself, suffered several years ago which placed me in ICU at Yale New Haven Hospital accompanied the most excruciating pain of my life) and bleeding within the lungs. She is no longer in danger of losing her life and will be in a new home soon!
Alexander P. Bernard, 25, is charged with stabbing his own dog 29 times on May 25th, 2011 in a neighbor’s driveway. The victim is Princess the Staffordshire Terrier mix, a beautiful animal with a wonderful gentle temperament, nearly 100% better medically from her injuries suffered in the incident. She is receiving somewhat sacrificial care by veterinarian Dr. James Wells and his staff at North Haven Animal Hospital, a wonderful facility. This Examiner, along with two animal rights advocates visited Princess after Bernard’s Meriden courthouse appearance on July 22nd, and some photos are included in a slideshow accompanying this article. Princess was responsive to us three strangers, honored me with allowing me to touch and pet her very quickly, seemed a bit nervous with all the attention, but was clearly happy with the affections of the familiar staff. All three visitors, staff and Princess had a great time. Dr. Wells was in surgery, but was eager to see Princess’ visitors, and requested that we remain until he could come out and speak with us personally and we were delighted to do so. Princess suffered the 29 wounds, loss of blood and a pneumothorax, which is a lung collapse involving relatively little liquid filling the lung cavity where the lung is supposed to be. I, myself suffered a spontaneous pneumothorax fifteen years ago which placed me in the ICU at Yale New Haven Hospital for two days, due not to an injury, but due to a congenital illness, and I was hospitalized for a total of a week. I have never before or since suffered such agonizing pain as I did from that partial lung collapse.
I called the Meriden Court Clerks’ office first thing Monday morning July 25th to put in my request to record via audio, still and/or video photography the August 29th appearance before Judge Scarpellino. The woman who answered the phone in the Clerk’s office said she didn’t know how to hook that up, and I asked her to follow up. She cuffed the phone, and came back on and said hurry on down and file a motion quick and you can get it done that way. I would have to file a motion with the clerks’ office. So I got down there that day, and asked for a form to fill out. I was told by the woman on the phone that there is no form. She said just write something out. Having been there, done that with trying to produce just the right legalese without guidance and certain I was incompetent to write any sort of proper motion without guidance or any format, I was sent to the “Help Desk” on the second floor.
The handwritten sign on the “Help Desk” door said the “Help Desk” was closed until the next business day. Dejected, I happened to see Janis, the Judges secretary/Admin. Asst. emerge from the elevator and I sought her guidance. Nice, she sat me down in her office and told me the clerks’ office was dead wrong. I can’t file a motion she said, I’m not a party to the case. She said I should call the Administrator’s office for the Superior Courts (run by Judge Quinn, the boss of the Judges—mentioned by Scarpellino from the bench, he’s sent a copy of that letter to her) and gave me a contact name. I went out into the second floor lobby and called there. They said that the Superior Court Judges themselves decided in their annual meeting in June that cameras should be allowed in the courtrooms. But only at jury trials and arraignments everywhere except the Hartford Courts until January, because it’s being phased in and experimented with. So, since Bernard’s next appearance is neither of those, no cameras or audio equipment. So the transparent Judge was safe in touting his love of courtroom cameras on July 22nd indeed, knowing what he did of the status of courtroom cameras in the Meriden courthouse at this point. I will be requesting an interview with Judge Quinn shortly, btw.
The number listed for Judge Scarpellino, which is actually the number for the Meriden Judges altogether is: 203-238-6137. I recommend that all who care about animal cruelty, justice and competent judges call a.s.a.p. The fax for Judge Scarpellino is 203-238-6423. Flooding them with calls and faxes cannot hurt at this point and there is still time for justice for Princess. August 29th is Bernard’s next appearance.
I certainly now have many questions for the administrator of Connecticut's Superior Courts about the competency, transparency, and training of Clerk's office personnel, those who leave hand-written notes on "Help Center" doors deferring business to the next business day during business hours on a nice sunny July day, the Judges, the Public Defender's office and the office of the State's Attorney and the competency of one prosecutor in particular and the safety of local undercover cops when he's present in that office alone at the Meriden Superior Court. And many, many questions about the handling of this case in particular, but that of all animal abuse and neglect cases in the state of Connecticut court system. I very much look forward to meeting Judge Quinn at her earliest convenience.
NOTES FROM COURTROOM APPEARANCE
July 22nd, 2011
Meriden, CT Superior Court
firstname.lastname@example.org Notes from courtroom appearance:
Judge Phillip Scarpellino presided, Same Public Defender as last time, identified previously as Thomas Conroy. Routine cases dispensed with and first defendant called from lock-up at 10:50am was Alexander Bernard (wearing same clothes – horizontal striped hoodie, jeans) as last appearance. Bernard was silent at this appearance, his attorney and Judge Scarpellino the only speakers during the proceeding, prosecutor was silent and not called upon by the judge.
Scarpellino began speaking from the bench about a letter he had received previously pertaining to the case. Judge spoke extensively on this letter. Letter written by a State Legislator (not named by the judge) and signed by 23 others, including the districts they represent. Scarpellino repeatedly mentioned that the signers of the letter indicated their district (expressing his feeling that indicating their districts was an attempt at intimidation) and seemed focused on this matter. The judge said it was sent and signed by the 23 members of the General Assembly of CT and dated 6/2/11 and received by him 6/9/11. Scarpellino continued to say that he had called the judicial office of External Affairs in Hartford, and reported to Judge Barbara Quinn on the letter. He said he “just wanted to make Hartford aware of the situation” and that he didn’t feel it necessary to remove himself from the case, unless ‘the attorneys’ felt it necessary.
Although such a letter might alter his view of the defendant’s case in a negative way Scarpellino suggested, he was not affected by this letter and felt qualified to continue on the case. Direct quote: “I’m not worried about the legislature reappointing me.” He clarified this comment by saying that Judges are appointed by the legislature every 8 years and he has 7 left before he is subject to reappointment. Scarpellino emphasized repeatedly that the letter was inappropriate, however would not alter his views on the dispensation of the case. He had particular displeasure that the signers would indicate their districts. He described the letter as having 3 paragraphs. The first cited ‘academic studies’ of incidences of cruelty and FBI stats. He quoted from the next portion of the letter, this is as close to verbatim as I could get: “The shear violence of his attack is enormously worrisome and the fact that the court doesn’t take this seriously” was a concern to the legislators. Scarpellino expressed dismay that the letter writer assumed Mr. Bernard’s guilt and dismay at the Legislature intervening at all in Judiciary proceedings, whether unofficially or officially. He offered the opinion that recent legislation passed by the General Assembly rendered the Connecticut Judiciary a ‘department’ and not a ‘branch’ of government any longer, and expressed his anger at such legislative modifications. He spoke at length about the politics of the legislature and the judiciary.
He introduced the letter as “Exhibit A” in the case, and said that it is now ‘in the file.’ He indicated that he felt himself still qualified to handle the case but offered to disqualify himself if ‘the lawyers’ requested it. He spoke of his personal ‘transparency’ and of how courtrooms in general are more transparent, with cameras allowed in courtrooms and such. He said he revealed the existence of the letter to the defendant and his defender before the appearance that day, and met with the State’s Attorney assigned to the case and with the defendant’s attorney.
Scarpellino said ‘he took all his vacation time all at once’ and that he would not be back until late August, and continued the case until Mr. Bernard’s next appearance on August 29th. Bernard’s attorney then spoke up and indicated that he would accept this date. Scarpellino and the defender spoke about Bernard’s ruling as competent to stand trial in late June following a competency determination by the state. The judge offered the explanation of the difference between having the ability to understand the charges against oneself, as opposed to having the ability to assist ones’ attorney(s) in one’s own defense and ordered a second competency determination.
No mention was made of Bernard’s refusal to allow his attorney to speak on his behalf at his appearance July 12th and his request for a new attorney and the original purpose of the continuance until July 22nd which was to allow Bernard time to find alternate legal representation. It was also revealed that bond was set at $10,000 and Bernard jailed on June 27th due to his removal of an electronic tracking ankle bracelet required by the conditions of his original release upon his arrest.
After court, Donna Ploss and Patty Daponte, two activists who have attended Bernard’s Meriden court appearance in protest of animal cruelty and of the judicial treatment of such cases and Bernard’s offenses in particular, and I went to North Haven Animal Hospital and visited with the victim of the stabbing, Princess the Staffordshire Terrier mix, and met briefly with attending veterinarian Dr. James Wells. Princess appeared healthy, hair beginning to grow back on her left side where major surgery was required, a bit shy and somewhat suspicious, but she warmed up to her visitors and enjoyed our attention and affection. The staff was delighted by our visit, and Princess clearly has a high level of trust with the staff. We visited with her for 15 minutes or so, and Dr. Wells requested that we remain a few minutes, from surgery, so he could greet us personally and tell us of Princess’ status, which is very good medically. We informed him of the latest goings on in court that morning.
For all the details of the past court appearances and the case, please see the review article at: http://unabashedleft.blogspot.com/2011/08/strange-case-of-princess-dog-her.html, including my own notes, unedited, from the bizarre July 22nd appearance in which Bernard’s efforts to find a new attorney was the sole purpose for the continuance, and which was never addressed that day at all in court. Instead Public Defender Conroy spoke for Bernard, Bernard spoke not at all and Scarpellino revealed the existence of a letter from a State Legislator he did not identify, signed by 22 others and politicked from the bench, railing against legislation he doesn’t like, complaining of the legislators’ ‘interference’ and yet claiming it doesn’t taint his view of the case! Bizarre!!! He indicated that he’s had possession of this letter since June 9th (the letter is dated June 7th ), but didn’t reveal it to the defendant or his counsel until that morning of July 12th, all the while touting his transparency and his love of openness and courtroom cameras and sound equipment.
We’ve since acquired a copy of that letter, and its author is 43rd District State Representative from North Stonington, Diana Urban, and it was signed by 22 other State Representatives, both Republicans and Democrats. That letter reads:
Judge Barbara M. Quinn Judge Philip Scarpellino
Chief Court Administrator; Superior Court, Meriden
Hundreds of academic studies have linked animal violence to human violence and Alexander Bernard’s actions clearly show cause for great concern. Mr. Bernard was released in lieu of $10,000 bond after stabbing his approximately 8 month old dog 29 times. Bernard said he did so because “his neighbors didn’t like the dog.” After his arrest, Alexander Bernard was referred to Catholic Charities, sent to live with an aunt, made to wear an electronic monitoring device and abide by a curfew. What Mr. Bernard did to this innocent young dog shows a shocking lack of empathy and a shocking and inappropriate level of violence. This adult didn’t steal a pack of gum from the grocery store; he stabbed a living breathing creature 29 times as if it was a completely natural thing to do. Clearly this individual is incapable of making rational decisions and shows a dangerous lack of civility and remorse. If Alexander Bernard could ruthlessly stab the family pet, imagine what he might be capable of in the years to come should his behavior go unpunished and untreated.
Since 1971 the FBI has recognized animal cruelty as a red flag for future violent behavior. Almost every school shooter began by engaging in animal cruelty. It is time we took animal cruelty seriously and approach it as an opportunity to interrupt the cycle of violence. It is distressing that Mr. Bernard would be released without bail basically on his own recognizance. The sheer violence of his attack is enormously worrisome and the fact that the court doesn’t appear to take what he did seriously is also distressing. We know that there is a link between animal cruelty and violet behavior and we need to use this knowledge to take these kinds of attacks seriously. The legislature has passed legislation providing for judges to send people like Mr. Bernard into counseling; and we have strong animal cruelty laws that can be invoked. If these laws are not used and Mr. Bernard’s case is nolled or he asks for Accelerated Rehab there will be no record of what he has done.
Mr. Bernard stabbed a sweet defenseless dog 29 times. What other indicator do we need to know that this man has a terrible violence in him?
State Representative, 43rdDistrict
Also signing were:
Audin Grogins, D-129 (Bridgeport); Robert Megna D-97 (New Haven); Michelle L. Cook, D-65 (Torrington); Susan M. Johnson, D-49 (Willimantic); Brenda Kupchik, R-132 (Fairfield); Kim Fawcett, D-133 (Fairfield/Westport); Noreen Kokoruda, R-101 (Madison); David Kiner, D-59 (Enfield); Steven Mikutel, D-45, (Griswold); Henry Genga, D-10 (East Hartford); Paul Davis, D-117 (Orange); Richard Roy, D-119 (Milford); Elaine O'Brien, D-61 (Windsor); Brian Becker, D-19 (West Hartford); Philip J. Miller, D-36 (Haddam/Deep River); Jack Hennessey, D-127 (Bridgeport); Elizabeth Ritter, D-38 (Waterford); Christopher Lyddy, R-106 (Newtown); Lonnie Reed, D-102 (Branford)
2 + 2 = ?
I spoke last evening with Diana Urban, and praised her for her efforts. She indicated to me that she could easily have garnered 80 bipartisan signatures to this letter. These are constitutional rights—expressing views on a case—and Diana has stepped out to speak out on a case and an issue in this state that matters. I genuinely look forward to a formal interview with Representative Urban in the coming week, although pressing family matters of hers and my own have been a priority in recent days. The legislature legislates and the courts enforce, they do not ignore legislation. This is a felony case, and yet Bernard’s been charged with a misdemeanor. Her letter was signed by Republicans AND Democrats and I laud them all! Congratulations to all the signers of this letter. Judge Phillip A. Scarpellino’s behavior in this case is suspect. He actually said from the bench on July 12th that he’s “not worried about the legislature reappointing me” because appointments are for 8 year terms and he was just reappointed last year! OMG!
Judge Barbara Quinn needs to review Judge Scarpellino’s comportment and activities surrounding this case. I call for the Judiciary Committee of the State Legislature to investigate Judge Scarpellino, this case and the Meriden Court and this case with a fine toothed comb. I call for Justice for Princess, and for a maximum sentence under law for admitted dog-stabber Alexander Bernard. Judge Scarpellino must be removed from this case before the next scheduled appearance on August 29th , he is clearly biased and not able to adjudicate this case without prejudice, given his own inappropriate conduct—particularly in failing to reveal the contents of this letter to anyone, the public, the defendant or the prosecutor until way down the road and many appearances and actions.