Published January 13. 2012 4:00AM
An attorney representing the survivor of an April car crash in which a North Haven woman died has challenged a New Haven Superior Court judge's quashing of subpoenas served on Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun employees.
Joseph Chiarelli, whose client, Edmund Davis, of New Haven, sustained serious injuries in the crash, is seeking to establish in a civil suit that the driver of the car that rear-ended the vehicle Davis was driving had been at one of the casinos prior to the incident and planned to return there to work as a prostitute.
Davis' passenger, Lisa Delprete, 45, was killed in the crash, which occurred less than a mile south of the Interstate 395 Exit 77.
The driver of the car, Dina Senibaldi, 27, of Everett, Mass., faces a slew of criminal charges, including second-degree manslaughter with a motor vehicle and second-degree assault with a motor vehicle. State police had initially arrested her on lesser charges, including driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and added the manslaughter and assault counts after an investigation.
Senibaldi was driving 100 mph and was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the crash, according to court documents released in November. Free on $125,000 bond, she is scheduled to appear Jan. 27 in New London Superior Court. She has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
In subpoenas issued in October, Davis' attorneys called for Joseph Albanese, Foxwoods' director of beverages, and Gary Crowder, Mohegan Sun's senior vice president of resort operations, to answer questions under oath and to provide "documents, records, recordings, advertising copy and promotional materials ... concerning the availability of escorts, sex workers/companionship" for gambling patrons "whether upon or off tribal premises …"
The subpoenas asked for records identifying tribal employees managing the promotion of escorts and the identities of "independent contractors" and "employees/vendors" who provide services as escorts. They also asked for all records, including surveillance recordings, related to Senibaldi; Marirose Lynch, also of Everett, Mass., a passenger in the car Senibaldi was driving; and Tresor Kapila, of Manchester, N.H., whose name was on a rental agreement for the car.
Judge Robin L. Wilson, in a Dec. 28 decision, granted the tribes' separate motions to quash the subpoenas, ruling that Albanese and Crowder, neither of whom is named in the suit, are entitled to the sovereign immunity that protects the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes from the jurisdiction of state courts. The tribes own Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, respectively.
On Friday, Chiarelli filed a motion to reargue Wilson's decision. In it, he contends that the tribes' claim of sovereign immunity "does not deprive" the Superior Court of jurisdiction over the subpoenas, which, Chiarelli writes, are related to "credibility issues" surrounding Senibaldi's account of the crash. Chiarelli notes that the crash did not occur on Indian reservation property and did not occur among tribal members. Nor does the suit name any tribal members.
Neither Chiarelli nor attorneys for the tribes would discuss the case.
Chiarelli, in his motion, disputes Senibaldi's version of the crash. She told state police at the scene that she and Lynch had left Massachusetts the day of the crash, intending to drive directly to Mohegan Sun. The crash occurred, however, when their leased Dodge Avenger, which was headed south, struck the rear of Davis' southbound Jeep Grand Cherokee south of Exit 77, well beyond any convenient exit for either casino.
Senibaldi told police she had "a couple of sips" of alcohol before leaving home, and she and Lynch blamed the crash on Davis' "unsafe lane change." They said they had missed the southbound casino exits because they were lost.
Chiarelli offers a far different account.
"The most plausible construction" of events, he writes in his motion, is that Senibaldi and Lynch consumed alcohol after leaving Massachusetts; "arrived at one of the New London casinos; acquired money there; left that casino with such recently acquired money intending to purchase drugs" and "planned to return to one of the casinos to work the larger late evening crowds."
Since neither Senibaldi nor Lynch showed up for depositions, Chiarelli argues that the only way to establish their whereabouts at either casino on April 8 is through the casinos' electronic and computer records.
"Complying with the subpoenas does not adversely affect the interests of any tribe, its members or its property so the Connecticut Superior Court's jurisdiction is not precluded by sovereign immunity," Chiarelli writes.