Judge to weigh assault charge

0
273

BY BRUNO MATARAZZO JR. REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

WATERBURY — A judge will consider whether to dismiss a sexual assault charge against a former Naugatuck High School student after it took prosecutors more than 18 months to turn over body camera footage and other evidence in the case.

Waterbury Superior Court Judge Hunchu Kwak held a hearing on a request to dismiss the sexual assault charge against Nicholas Casey on Wednesday. The hearing was continued to allow prosecutors and the defense attorney to review a lengthy group chat between the alleged victim and other Naugatuck High female students before the assault was reported.

In October 2021, Casey’s attorney, Ioannis A. Kaloidis, requested body camera footage of police interacting with some of the students and the group chat.

Casey is accused of sexually assaulting a fellow student in October 2019 at her home. At the time, Casey was a junior and the alleged victim was a 14-year-old freshman at the time.

The group chat involving the alleged victim and 10 other girls was referenced to police and during a forensic interview about the assault. Detective Robert O’Donnell testified there was no attempt made to obtain the group chat during the investigation or after the arrest. O’Donnell said he has not seen the contents of the group chat and has no way of knowing whether what the girls said is the same as what they told the police.

When asked by Senior Assistant State’s Attorney Elena Palermo about what is the best evidence for a police investigation — a group chat or a forensic interview — O’Donnell said the forensic interview.

The question and answer prompted a rebuttal by Kaloidis.

“If you were a criminal defendant, wouldn’t you agree that it would be important to have all the witnesses’ statements, not just the one, nice, tailored interview that was produced by the police?” Kaloidis asked.

Testimony also focused on the department’s body camera policy at the time police interviewed the girls in the winter of 2020. That policy stated that officers should activate the cameras when they interact with the public, but it was the “practice” not to activate them when speaking with juveniles in sexual assault cases.

Naugatuck Police Capt. Antonio Bastos testified officers should follow written policy, not practice.

The “practice” prompted some interactions with girls to be deleted. However, some body camera footage with two female witnesses does exist and has still not been turned over to Kaloidis.

Palermo said another hearing needs to be held to determine if those videos are relevant to the case.

“In one instance they are saying they don’t record it and the other instance they’re saying, ‘We do record them and we got them,’” Kaloidis said.

At the time, Palermo said it’s up to the officers’ discretion on whether to record conversations with juvenile sex assault victims.  The policy has since been changed to record all interactions with the public.