News 8 has learned New Haven police Chief Anthony Campbell personally ordered an un-redacted version of the bar brawl report from 1985 be released to cable news outlet CNN despite strong objections by clerks in the Records Unit. Clerks were reportedly against releasing the information because it possibly violated state law governing defendants granted admission to court ordered diversion programs or who had their charges dismissed outright.
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Connecticut statute 54-142a. (b) states in part “…the clerk or any person charged with the retention and control of such records shall not disclose to anyone their existence or any information pertaining to any charge so erased.” The law also applies to charges dismissed or “nolle prossed” or not prosecuted.
Reached by phone Friday, Chief Campbell acknowledged ordering the report to be released. “I wanted to err on the side of transparency,” he said.
Campbell told us he was concerned the department would be accused of withholding information the public was entitled to. According to him, department brass reached out to the Connecticut Judicial Branch for guidance and to determine exactly what was the order of the court as it pertains to how this record be handled. But the Judicial Branch was unable to assist because its record no longer exists.
Records clerk Kelli Bray apparently was so concerned about disseminating the report in which details of the bar fight involving Kavanaugh and Yale classmate Chris Dudley were laid bare she wrote a memo to her superiors explaining her hesitation.
“I have been trained by co-workers in FOI rules and regulations,” Bray wrote. “I understand that regarding erasures, dismissals and nolles beyond a certain period of time…” A large section of her memo is blacked out, then it continues with the phrase, “be redacted.”
Bray also noted in her memo, “I was asked by these keepers of records to provide said Sergeant and Chief with the un-redacted report.”
And if Bray’s trepidation wasn’t already clear, she penned these words, “I am providing this information to ensure that I am not held responsible for any negative response to this information being released.”
Chief Campbell revealed for the first time the controversy will result in changes to NHPD’s document retention and dissemination policy. Campbell said he is working now with Asst. Corporation Counsel Kathleen Foster and the Judicial Branch to reviewing current rules and come up with a new policy governing records of defendants in diversion programs and whose charges have been dismissed.
WEB EXTRA: Read Bray’s full memo here: