A Pawcatuck man accused of threatening Superior Court Judge John J. Nazzaro during a June 28 encounter in the self-checkout lane of the local Stop & Shop grocery store has been granted accelerated rehabilitation.
New London Superior Court Judge Karen A. Goodrow granted the pretrial diversionary program to Justin N. Lanoie, 43, of 58 Stewart Road Wednesday afternoon after attorneys for the state and Lanoie told her they had discussed the case with Nazzaro, "the complaining witness."
Lanoie will receive a full dismissal of the charges if he stays out of trouble for 90 days.
"I spoke to the complaining witness, and he has no objection to accelerated rehabilitation," said Supervisory Assistant State's Attorney Michael E. Kennedy. Nazzaro indicated he thought it would be appropriate for the judge to order Lanoie to have no contact with Nazzaro or his family, Kennedy said.
"He thought this was the best solution to get this behind everybody as soon as possible," Assistant Public Defender Jennifer B. Nowak said of her conversation with Nazzaro.
At an earlier court appearance, the prosecutor made an oral motion to transfer the case to Middlesex Superior Court, and Nowak said she would object to the transfer. Both declined comment.
Nazzaro practiced law locally before being appointed to the bench in 2007. He presided over criminal cases at the New London courthouse, known as Geographical Area 10 or G.A. 10, from September 2012 to April 2013. He is now hearing civil cases in New Haven Superior Court.
During the June 28 incident, Nazzaro, who lives in Pawcatuck, was behind Lanoie in the self-checkout lane with his daughter when Lanoie, who was with his son, attempted unsuccessfully to scan trash bags and toilet paper, according to Nowak.
Nazzaro asked Lanoie if he needed help, Nowak said, before apparently thinking that Lanoie was attempting to steal the items. He then identified himself as a judge and told Lanoie that people go to jail for shoplifting, Nowak said.
Lanoie allegedly responded by saying, "Snitches like you end up in cemeteries."
Nazzaro reported the incident to Stonington police, who arrested Lanoie at his home.
Nowak said Lanoie, a single father who has no criminal history, has worked as a dealer at Foxwoods Resort Casino for nine years and "takes his job as a single parent seriously."
Judge Goodrow imposed the no-contact order. Lanoie, whose son attends school with Nazzaro's daughter, said he has instructed the son to stay away from the girl.
Goodrow told Lanoie there may be occasions when he crosses Nazzaro's path at the school, but that Lanoie should "walk the other way."
The case will be fully dismissed on Nov. 6 if Lanoie complies.