Po­lice refuse to re­lease videos of trash bag dump­ing

Stamford Advocate - - Front Page - By Lisa Backus

NEW CANAAN — Video footage that po­lice say shows Fo­tis Du­los toss­ing trash bags con­tain­ing his es­tranged wife’s blood is not yet ready for pub­lic con­sump­tion.

New Canaan po­lice have de­nied Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia’s re­quest for the videos, which show two peo­ple match­ing the de­scrip­tions of Fo­tis Du­los and his girl­friend, Michelle Tro­co­nis, on Al­bany Av­enue in Hart­ford around the time Jen­nifer Du­los was re­ported miss­ing on May 24, ac­cord­ing to ar­rest war­rants.

“After a care­ful re­view, we de­ter­mined that in ac­cor­dance with C.G.S­1­210, et seq., the records you re­quested are not dis­clos­able,” New Canaan Po­lice Chief Leon Kro­likowski wrote in an email on Wed­nes­day.

Sec. 1 –210 is a broad sub­sec­tion of state

Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion law that de­lin­eates which records held by pub­lic agen­cies can be con­sid­ered ex­empt from pub­lic view. Only cer­tain as­pects of the sec­tion are ac­tu­ally pro­hib­ited from re­lease by Con­necti­cut state law. Gov­ern­ment agen­cies can re­lease in­for­ma­tion that would fall un­der the ex­emp­tions if they choose.

The sub­sec­tion Kro­likowski cited lists sev­eral ex­emp­tions, in­clud­ing records of law en­force­ment not oth­er­wise avail­able to the pub­lic, records gathered as part of an on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion, records that could be prej­u­di­cial to an on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion, videos or record­ings of a mur­der that would be an in­va­sion of pri­vacy to the vic­tim, records of ju­ve­nile ar­rests, and sev­eral other cat­e­gories in­clud­ing trade se­crets, on­go­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions in law­suits and med­i­cal records.

Kro­likowski did not spec­ify un­der which ex­emp­tion cat­e­gory the videos would fall in his de­nial, which was is­sued more than 30 days after Hearst sub­mit­ted a re­quest to see the videos.

“I’m still wait­ing to see the al­leged videos my­self,” said at­tor­ney Norm Pat­tis, who is rep­re­sent­ing Fo­tis Du­los in the crim­i­nal case. “Fo­tis was ar­rested six weeks ago. What’s the hold up?”

The po­lice are within their rights to withhold the videos if they are claim­ing that the re­lease could be prej­u­di­cial to an on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion, ac­cord­ing to Thomas Hen­nick, pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion of­fi­cer for the state FOI Com­mis­sion.

“I don’t know which ex­emp­tion they are claim­ing. I’m pre­sum­ing, but if that’s the one, that is a le­git­i­mate ex­emp­tion,” Hen­nick said.

The ques­tion now be­comes, in a case that has drawn in­tense pub­lic scru­tiny, should the videos be with­held? Prob­a­bly, said Quin­nip­iac law pro­fes­sor Brian Dun­lap. After re­view­ing state FOI law, Dun­lap said it would be im­pos­si­ble to tell whether the videos would be prej­u­di­cial to any law en­force­ment ac­tion re­gard­ing the case un­less they could be re­viewed.

“We don’t know what is on those videos and they do,” Dun­lap said. “This is not a com­ment about New Canaan po­lice, but gov­ern­ment agen­cies have a ten­dency not to want to re­lease in­for­ma­tion. That’s not un­usual at all.”

There’s also the ques­tion of the con­text of the po­ten­tial re­lease, he said.

Fo­tis Du­los and Tro­co­nis have been charged with tam­per­ing with ev­i­dence and hin­der­ing pros­e­cu­tion. The re­lease of the videos, de­pend­ing on what they con­tain, may not in­ter­fere with the pend­ing pros­e­cu­tion of those charges.

But the re­lease may con­flict with the larger in­ves­ti­ga­tion to find Jen­nifer Du­los and any fur­ther charges filed in the case.

“There is a com­pelling in­ter­est on both sides,” Dun­lap said. “There is a bat­tle be­tween pro­tect­ing free­dom of in­for­ma­tion, which is ex­tremely im­por­tant, and pro­tect­ing the in­tegrity of a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion, which is also ex­tremely im­por­tant.”

The videos were culled from the Hart­ford po­lice sur­veil­lance sys­tem after a foren­sic re­view de­ter­mined that Fo­tis Du­los’ cell­phone trav­eled to Al­bany Av­enue in Hart­ford the night of the dis­ap­pear­ance, ar­rest war­rants said.

The images show Fo­tis Du­los and Tro­co­nis stop­ping about 30 times along a four­mile stretch around 7 p.m. on May 24, ac­cord­ing to ar­rest war­rants.

The videos, dis­cov­ered a week later, touched off a fran­tic search of trash bins along the busy street . In­ves­ti­ga­tors re­trieved at least two garbage bags be­lieved to have been dumped by Fo­tis Du­los, ac­cord­ing to ar­rest war­rants.

The footage also shows Fo­tis Du­los plac­ing a FedEx box in a storm drain at the in­ter­sec­tion of Al­bany Av­enue and Gar­den Street, the war­rants said. The box con­tained li­cense plates that were once reg­is­tered to Fo­tis Du­los, ar­rest war­rants said.

By the time author­i­ties dis­cov­ered the videos, most of the garbage had al­ready been hauled away. It set off a three­week search of a Hart­ford trash plant. While author­i­ties did not re­veal if any ev­i­dence was found at the fa­cil­ity, Brian Fo­ley, the ex­ec­u­tive aide to James Rovella, who heads the Depart­ment of Emer­gency Ser­vices and Pub­lic Protection, said the ef­forts were “worth it.”

Kait­lyn Kras­selt / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

State Po­lice search on May 31 an area of Hart­ford where they say Fo­tis Du­los was seen on video dump­ing garbage bags con­tain­ing Jen­nifer Du­los’ blood.

Patrick Ray­craft / TNS

State Po­lice con­ducted a three­week search of a Hart­ford trash­to­en­ergy plant looking for ev­i­dence in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the dis­ap­pear­ance of New Canaan mother Jen­nifer Far­ber Du­los.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.