'Hands-on' U.S. Attorney Daly will be missed by area agencies

Departing U.S. Attorney Deirdre M. Daly speaks Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017, during her final news conference in New Haven. (Karen Florin/The Day)
Departing U.S. Attorney Deirdre M. Daly speaks Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017, during her final news conference in New Haven. (Karen Florin/The Day)

Connecticut's U.S. attorney, Deirdre M. Daly, an appointee of President Barack Obama who was allowed by the Trump Administration to stay on the job until she reached 20 years of service, is stepping down as of Friday.

The 58-year-old Fairfield resident in 2014 became the first woman to be nominated by a president and confirmed as Connecticut's top federal prosecutor. She served as the acting U.S. attorney for approximately one year prior to that date.

During her final news conference Tuesday, municipal police officers, FBI agents and others flanked Daly as she announced the formation of the Connecticut Cyber Task Force involving federal, state and local agencies, the last of many collaborative efforts during her tenure. She lingered a few minutes to answer reporters' questions.

Daly said the job has been "the gift of a lifetime" and that, for now, she would be spending time with her family and regrouping. First Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael J. Gustafson will serve as acting U.S. attorney until President Donald Trump's nominee for the post is announced and confirmed. 

"I think what I'm most proud of here is working with a group of extremely talented people," Daly said.

The office's collaborative efforts have extended to New London County, where state and local authorities worked with federal prosecutors on a number of cases.  

"They were particularly helpful with the opioid crisis," said New London State's Attorney Michael L. Regan. "Their office has resources we do not have and would take a lot of cases involving deadly overdoses."

As the opioid epidemic worsened, the U.S. Attorney's Office under Daly's direction and the Drug Enforcement Administration began prosecuting drug dealers who sold heroin/fentanyl that resulted in fatal overdoses.

"It's generally low-level dealers, but we decided death is different and decided to prosecute some of these cases," Daly said. "That's provided some solace to parents."

The office developed a statewide protocol for handling evidence in overdose cases and charged dozens of people from throughout the state. Those who were prosecuted federally faced stiffer penalties and, in some cases, the opportunity to take part in more comprehensive drug rehabilitation programs.

Daly's office also focused on outreach and prevention, giving more than 90 presentations to high school students and parents and encouraging screenings of the FBI/DEA documentary "Chasing the Dragon," which chronicles the lives of opioid addicts.

"She'll be missed," Regan said of Daly. "Although it's a political appointment, she was a hands-on prosecutor."

Groton Town Police Chief Louis J. Fusaro Jr. said he and Daly had served together on the executive board of the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force. More recently, he said Groton Town police have dealt with her office on a lot of high-profile cases involving substantial seizures of narcotics and, most notably, he said, the death investigations related to heroin overdoses.

"She's been a big supporter of law enforcement in Connecticut," Fusaro said. "We'll miss her leadership."

Daly listed among her office's accomplishments the successful prosecution of violent criminals such as 21 members of the Redside Guerilla Brims gang in New Haven. The investigation resolved seven murder cases, four attempted murders and four armed robberies that occurred in 2011 and 2012.

Paul J. Narducci, a senior assistant state's attorney in New London, is cross-deputized to serve as a federal prosecutor and worked with the U.S. Attorney's Office on a number of cases, including the "Green Garages" homicide case in which Javier Reyes, 36, was found stabbed to death and with blunt force trauma to his head on Sept. 12, 2012, outside of his apartment at 187 Huntington St. in New London.

New London and state police also worked on the "Green Garages" cases, which centered around a drug operation out of a series of garage bays on Walker Street and ended with four defendants receiving lengthy sentences in federal court.

"U.S. Attorney Daly and the U.S. Attorney's Office have been instrumental in fighting violent crime and narcotics enterprises in southeastern Connecticut," Narducci said. "Attorney Daly has been extremely receptive to our needs and has provided all available resources to help us combat these problems, as evidenced by the successful arrests and prosecutions in 2013 of numerous heroin and cocaine traffickers. She took a personal interest in the prosecution of Oscar Valentin and Nestor Pagan for the homicide of Javier Reyes. It's been a privilege working with her and her office. We look forward to continuing to work together."

Daly said she was proud that the prosecutors in her office had the courage to stand up to people in power. She created a public corruption task force during her tenure and one of those prosecuted included former Gov. John G. Rowland for scheming to be secretly paid as a consultant to political campaigns in violation of federal campaign finance laws.

The office continued its existing focus on cases involving vulnerable victims, such as children, under Daly, who put together a task force on human trafficking. She said her office also reached out to police, minorities and communities of color.

"My saddest six days in my tenure have been the six days when I attended funerals for officers who killed themselves," she said.  

A graduate of Dartmouth College and Georgetown University Law Center, Daly served as a law clerk for the Honorable Lloyd F. MacMahon, U.S. district judge for the Southern District of New York.

From 1985 to 1997, she was assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York and later served as the assistant-in-charge of the White Plains office for three years. She returned to the private sector to work as a partner at Daly & Pavlis LLC, a Connecticut firm, before once again entering public service.

Between July 2010 and May 2013, she served as first assistant U.S. attorney in Connecticut, during which time she assisted in the oversight of both the Criminal and Civil divisions.

She was a member of U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch's Attorney General's Advisory Committee (AGAC) from 2015 to 2016, and as a member of the National Commission on Forensic Science, which the Justice Department established to improve the reliability of forensic science, from 2015 to 2017.

Daly said she recently had celebrated her 30th wedding anniversary and is the mother of three children.

k.florin@theday.com 

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