by Charles A. Monagan
Oct 25, 2012
07:34 AM
On Connecticut

When a Bully Cries "Bully!"


Seeing this column by noted New Haven defense attorney Norm Pattis reminded me of the old adage that no one resents bullying more than another bully.

Reading Pattis took me back to another Connecticut trial, one in 2001 in which a man named Alfred Swinton had been accused of murdering at least one, and possibly several, Hartford-area prostitutes in the 1990s. Swinton had been arrested in part as the result of a story that had appeared in Connecticut Magazine in 1993 - one in which the writer, Karon Haller, had gotten him to all but confess during an interview session at a Hartford restaurant. Karon had been called as a witness to recount her memorable evening with Swinton and to go through the other research that had led to the completion of her story. Pattis was Swinton's lawyer.

As Karon's editor, I decided to go up to the courthouse one day to show support for her. Although she was a remarkably fearless and able reporter, she was at that point suffering greatly from the cancer that would eventually take her life. She wasn't sure if she'd be able to withstand either the difficult questioning or the presence of Swinton just a few feet away.

During a recess, I went over to speak with Karon. She appeared to be shaken. She told me that Pattis had just come over and spoken to her about my presence in the courtroom. She said he'd indicated to her that he didn't like having me there and that if I continued showing up there'd be consequences.

Of course my presence in the courtroom was completely harmless. I had no role in the proceedings. The "consequences" Pattis spoke of were nonexistent.

Pattis was simply trying to intimidate (bully, if you prefer) a witness with a passing remark.  He had picked me out as someone who was friendly with Karon, had asked her who I was, and had made it seem to her that my continued presence could somehow jeopardize her standing at the trial.

In all the years that have followed, I have never forgotten what Pattis did that day. I could understand the toughest possible questioning of a witness on the stand, but not the tactic he used against Karon.

By the way, Swinton was found guilty and, as far as I know, remains in jail to this day. And Pattis is on the other end of a "bullies with briefcases" story.

When a Bully Cries "Bully!"

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